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Malicious online activity skyrockets, P.R. 10th most-vulnerable in the Americas

Online cyber attacks skyrocketed by 81 percent in 2011 affecting organizations of all sizes and types worldwide, Symantec said.

Online cyber attacks skyrocketed by 81 percent in 2011 affecting organizations of all sizes and types worldwide, according to the 17th edition of Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, which also revealed that Puerto Rico ranked 10th among all territories in the Americas with the greatest volume of malicious activity.

The report released Monday showed that while the number of global online vulnerabilities decreased by 20 percent, advanced targeted attacks are spreading, data breaches are increasing, and attackers are focusing on mobile threats.

The lengthy document revealed that despite ranking 10th, Puerto Rico fared better than some of the largest countries in the region. Brazil and the U.S. mainland tied for first place, Argentina and Canada took second, while Colombia ranked third. Mexico, Chile, Perú, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Uruguay rounded out the regional ranking of countries dealing with cyber attacks and their consequences.

The report showed that Puerto Rico fared better than the rest of the Latin American and Caribbean region in terms of having to deal with a lower volume of malicious code problems — virus, worms and Trojan Horses — so-called “spam zombies,” which take control of systems to send large volumes of junk email, phishing and network attacks. However, the island ranked 8th in the region regarding the problem of “bot”-infected computers, or machines that have been compromised and are controlled remotely.

“In 2011 cybercriminals greatly expanded their reach, with nearly 20 percent of targeted attacks now directed at companies with fewer than 250 employees,” said Stephen Trilling, chief technology officer of Symantec. “We’ve also seen a large increase in attacks on mobile devices, making these devices a viable platform for attackers to leverage in targeting sensitive enterprise data. Organizations of all sizes need to be vigilant about protecting their information.”

Symantec blocked more than 5.5 billion malicious attacks in 2011, an increase of 81 percent over the previous year. In addition, the number of unique malware variants increased to 403 million and the number of Web attacks blocked per day increased by 36 percent.

Meanwhile, some 1.1 million identities were stolen per data breach on average in 2011, a dramatic increase over the amount seen in any other year, Symantec said.

Mobile vulnerabilities increased by 93 percent in 2011. At the same time, there was a rise in threats targeting the Android operating system, the report showed.

“With the number of vulnerabilities in the mobile space rising and malware authors not only reinventing existing malware for mobile devices, but creating mobile-specific malware geared to the unique mobile opportunities, 2011 was the first year that mobile malware presented a tangible threat to businesses and consumers,” the report noted. “These threats are designed for activities including data collection, the sending of content, and user tracking.”

Symantec measures sources of Internet threat data in the world through its Symantec Global Intelligence Network, which is made up of more than 64.6 million attack sensors and records thousands of events per second. This network monitors attack activity in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.

In the global ranking, Puerto Rico placed 73rd, while the U.S. mainland took 1st place.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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