Blended attacks on the increase

Vigilance is vital, as recent research finds that Friday lunchtime is the most common time for a cyberattack to be launched

Companies worldwide are experiencing a sharp rise in the severity of cyberattacks.

According to Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report, blended threats, such as viruses, worms or Trojans which combine with an Internet or server vulnerability to affect an attack, pose the greatest cyberthreat to company security.

Such attacks rose 80 percent over the second half of 2002 -- as the Klez infestation and Bugbear made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Symantec also highlighted the threat posed by network applications such as instant messaging and peer-to-peer software -- as well as old-fashioned operator error -- as reasons for an increasing variety of severe threats.

Perhaps indicative of the part 'operator error' can play in enabling a cyberattack, such as a virus outbreak, is the fact that Symantec's research revealed Friday lunchtimes to be the most common times for a severe cyberattack to begin.

With users winding down for the weekend -- and perhaps more likely to freely open email attachments -- it is perhaps little wonder virus writers bent on chaos find it their most fruitful time of the week.

The survey revealed 21 percent of companies have experienced at least one severe cyberattack in the past six months.

In an age when many companies are performing large numbers of transactions electronically, serious downtime resulting from virus attacks can cripple a business and equate to millions in lost revenues and expensive people hours spent on recovery.

For more on Symantec's findings and methodology, see: its Web site.

For all security-related news, including updates on the latest viruses, hacking exploits and patches, check out ZDNet UK's Security News Section.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom.