In many ways, the year 2010 was not good for cybersecurity. Nations launched digital attacks against their enemies. “Hacktivists” disrupted the Internet as a form of political protest. Fully one-third of all malware ever documented emerged during those 12 months.
On the plus side, the rate of growth of malware slowed, though that may have been small consolation as more governments and quasi-political groups adopted tactics pioneered by criminals.
PandaLabs, the malware research laboratory of Spain-based security vendor Panda Security, said in its 2010 Annual Security Report that it had collected 60 million pieces of malware — viruses, worms, Trojans, and other threats.
Banker Trojans, which are designed to steal log-in information related to bank accounts, were at the top of the list of new malware that appeared in 2010. Banker Trojans represented 56 percent of all new samples, followed by viruses and worms.
Rogueware, including fake antivirus software, also "created great havoc among users," according to the report. Around for only four years, it already had comprised 11.6 percent of all the malware collected by PandaLabs. In the first 11 months of 2010 the company cataloged 2.3 million new examples, making 2010 "the year of the fake antivirus," the report said.
Additionally, PandaLabs said that although cybercrime has existed for many years, cyberwar became much more active and aggressive in 2010.
The most notorious malware was Stuxnet, a new worm that infected the Natanz nuclear-fuel processing facility in Iran. Speculation as to who was responsible for the sophisticated worm, which targeted specific industrial control systems, touched on the United States and Israel, but "nobody knows," the report said.
Another new worm, called “Here you have,” appeared at the same time. The PandaLabs report said that it apparently had been developed by an Islamist organization known as the Brigades of Tariq ibn Ziyad, after the Arab general who invaded Spain in the 8th century. Its intention was to remind the United States of the 9/11 attacks and call for respect for Islam as a response to Florida pastor Terry Jones’ threat of burning the Quran.
Operation Aurora, an attack allegedly launched from China, targeted employees of large multinational companies by installing a Trojan on their PCs that could access all their confidential information.
The phenomenon called cyberprotests or “hacktivism,” although not new, also made headlines in 2010. The group calling itself Anonymous coordinated DDoS ( distributed denial-of-service ) attacks on websites of organizations opposed to Internet piracy and unwilling to do business with WikiLeaks.
Security incidents affecting the most popular social-networking sites were prevalent in 2010. Facebook and Twitter were the most affected, but there were also attacks on other sites, including LinkedIn and the image-posting site Fotolog.
However, there was some good news. The rate of new threats actually decreased from 2009. The number of new threats had doubled every year since 2003, but the increase during 2010 was 50 percent.
The amount of spam was also reduced last year. In 2009, approximately 95 percent of all e-mail traffic globally was spam, but that share dropped to an average of 85 percent in 2010, according to the report.