Symantec Service Rates Threats for Consumers

Symantec's free Internet Threat Meter alerts consumers to risks spreading via e-mail, the Web, file sharing and IM.

Symantec unveiled on Feb. 28 a free service to warn home computer users about risks spreading over e-mail, the Web, file sharing and instant messaging networks.

The Symantec Internet Threat Meter uses data from the companys Global Intelligence Network to rate Internet threats from low to high risk.

The new meter rates the risk of activities such as using e-mail or Web surfing based on the prevalence of high-risk threats and attacks using those mediums. For example, extremely high volumes of phishing and spam attacks or a critical e-mail client vulnerability would push the e-mail threat rating to "high risk," whereas a spike in adware and spyware would lift the risk rating for Web activities, Symantec said.

The meter is intended to alert consumers to the online threat environment and to attacks that may be stealthy and more targeted than in past years, Symantec said.

However, the new Internet Threat Meter provides little detail beyond a basic risk rating. On Feb. 28, for example, Symantec rated e-mail activity a "medium risk" and advised e-mail users to exercise "extra caution," despite "no high priority malicious code employing e-mail as a propagation vector." Web activities were deemed a "low risk," despite the observation that there are "multiple exploits available for recently patched vulnerabilities in various Microsoft client side software," and that "users could be affected by simply browsing to a Web site."

Other companies and organizations also offer threat meters for consumers. ESET Softwares Virus Radar Web site provides extensive information on the top online virus threats and historical threat trends—in four languages.

The SANS Institutes Internet Storm Center also provides detailed information on a wide range of Internet threats and trend information. ISC culls information from intrusion sensors deployed around the world and is used by technical experts and system administrators.

The granddaddy of free online threat monitoring sites is the Talisker Security Wizardry Portal, which is designed for government and military networks. Talisker streams real-time information from Symantec and DShield (the same IDS network used by ISC), as well as open-source information from news outlets, etc.

The Talisker portal recently surfaced in the background of a White House photo depicting President Bush addressing staff at the National Security Agency.


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