Comodo hacker all bark, no bite: Symantec

The public chest-beating habits of the alleged Comodo hacker cast doubt on whether he is a threat, according to Symantec.
Written by Darren Pauli, Contributor

The public chest-beating habits of the alleged Comodo hacker cast doubt on whether he is really a threat, according to Symantec.


(Glasses image by hm.matheus, CC2.0)

The hacker has issued several public posts on the pastebin website over the last week explaining how he allegedly broke into certificate authority Comodo and obtained digital certificates for the likes of Google, Yahoo and Skype.

Symantec managing director for the Pacific, Craig Scroggie, said those habits aren't typical of serious cyber criminals who aim to remain obscure.

"Those people who really have the skills do not want to be exposed," Scroggie said. "The people who tend to be looking for publicity are the ones who are copycats or want notoriety that they do not deserve."

He said that while the Iranian hacker may be legitimate, the most competent and damaging hackers only seek notoriety in secluded underground forums.

Scroggie's comments have come as the company releases its annual threat report for 2010 today, which identified URL shorteners and targeted attacks such as phishing as the most prolific security risks of the last 12 months.

URL shorteners are favoured by Twitter users for their ability to shorten URLs to fit within the network's 140 character-limit, and are also a favourite of criminals because they replace descriptive URL addresses with obscure text.

Cyber criminals often use fake news stories to lure people to a malware infected site. Scroggie said the use of URL shorteners to lure people to such sites was booming, and said Symantec had found that 65 per cent of malicious links masquerading as news articles were distributed through shorteners.

On average, most shortened links to false news stories attracted a dozen clicks from victims, while a third attracted almost 50.

Scroggie said that all businesses must address the risks of social networking.

"Social networking leads to larger problems, because it is eas[ier] to determine face-to-face who you are talking to.

"The most basic human instincts trump logic."

Symantec dubbed 2010 "the year of targeted attacks", where cyber criminals use specific information, gleaned for example by hacking information repositories or by scraping data from social networks, to serve malware to particular victims. The idea is that a targeted attack, which often seeks financial gain, is more likely to succeed.

Data breaches resulting from hacking attacks compromised 262,767 identities on average during 2010, according to Symantec's report, about four times as many as those compromised via insider data leaks.

The report said that Symantec had identified some 285 million new variants of malware over the year.

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