Sunday, November 27, 2005

Blended Threats, Defined

True to their name, blended threats (also known as complex, integrated, or mixed threats) employ a variety of tactics to achieve a goal, whether it’s to simply propagate across the Internet or attack and debilitate computer systems. More often than not, blended threats do intend to inflict damage and, as such, possess the powerful capacity to do so, as shown when recent versatile worms severely affected substantial portions of the Internet by clogging computer systems and networks with their malicious instructions (more about specific malware in a moment).
Today’s blended threats spread quickly and are often difficult to cure because they employ more than one infection method. Mirroring the complexity of the threats themselves, the cleanup involved with blended threats is often intricate and costly. According to Computer Economics, Code Red alone had a worldwide economic impact of $2.62 billion in 2001, and others caused a similar amount of damage.
Because blended threats attack from multiple points, they are generally very efficient and spread more quickly than their single-barreled viral brethren. In fact, Computer Economics estimates that Nimda infected 2.2 million servers and clients in a 24-hour period.
And it’s not just the number of attack methods that make blended threats so dangerous; it’s also the types of attacks themselves. Some worms feature automated infection abilities that spawn on computers with no user interaction necessary. Also, blended threats tend to assail little-known security holes in software, a practice hackers (savvy computer users who break into systems with the intent to cause damage or access information for illegal purposes) popularized. This combination of traditional virus activity and hacker behavior often creates a lethal package capable of penetrating supposedly secure computer systems around the globe.


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