Hackers Target Third Party Apps to Squirm Their Way Through Windows Security

Paul Lilly

Microsoft last week released the fifth volume of its Security Intelligence Report (SIR) covering the period between January through June of 2008. The report, which purports to offer an "in-depth perspective on software vulnerabilities and exploits, malicious code threats, and potentially unwanted software," uses data derived from what Microsoft claims are hundreds of millions of Windows users, all of which is analyzed and laid out in a tidy 13MB PDF download .

According to the 150-page report, hackers are increasingly honing in on third party applications rather than attempting to attack Microsoft directly. Vulnerabilities in programs like RealPlayer, QuickTime, WinZip, and other non-operating system software provide hackers with a greater number of exploits requiring a low degree of complexity, the report claims.

"It is alarming to see that more than 90 percent of vulnerabilities disclosed in 1H08 affected applications, and nearly half of all industry vulnerabilities are rated as High Severity," Microsoft says in its report. "Additionally, 1H08 showed how threats are increasingly affecting a variety of vendors beyond Microsoft."

The report also notes several geographical trends in security threats. Among them, password stealers such are Win32/Bancos are most prominent in Brazil where the overall infection rate has risen an alarming 81.8 percent from 2H07 to 1H08. In the U.S., trojan downloaders, like Win32/Zlob, account for the largest single category of threat.

Image Credit: Microsoft

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