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Instant messaging attacks rise in October

In October alone, security firm Akonix Systems tracked 88 attacks that used instant messaging programs to spread. Attackers are also exploiting P2P programs.

If a new report from Akonix Systems Inc. is any indication, attackers thrived on the backs of instant messaging (IM) and P2P users in record numbers this month.

The San Diego-based IM security vendor said it tracked 88 IM attacks in October, the highest number this year. Meanwhile, attacks using P2P networks like Kazaa and eDonkey shot up by 62% compared to September, with 34 attacks.

"As predicted, IM attacks are continuing to grow at a rapid rate, with the October threats breaking last month's high for the year by nearly 40%," said Don Montgomery, vice president of marketing at Akonix. "With adoption of IM in the workplace growing at 22% per year … it's now imperative that companies address the risk of having their networks compromised by the growing number of IM threats."

New IM-based worms Akonix identified this month include SOHANAD, Imaut, Pepa, Yaautoit and QUATIM. SOHANAD was the most common with six variants, followed by Imaut, with five.

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Overall, Akonix security analysts issued a total of 12 new policy updates, using its IM malware, spam over IM and protocol update system.

In September, Akonix tracked 64 different attacks against IM networks. For the year, the company has seen approximately 325 different attacks.

The report reflects a growing trend in the last two years where security vendors have observed month-by-month spikes in IM- and P2P-based attacks.

In April, for example, Foster City, Calif.-based FaceTime Communications Inc. reported 453 malicious incidents over IM and P2P for the first quarter of 2006, a 723% percent jump over the first quarter of 2005.

Earlier this year, Waltham, Mass.-based IMlogic Inc. reported an almost 1,700% increase in reported incidents in 2005 compared to all reported incidents in 2004, with 2,403 unique IM and P2P threats, including IM-specific attacks and blended threats targeting IM and P2P applications.

Meanwhile, IT administrators have struggled to secure their networks against a myriad of IM programs employees download on their own, such as Windows Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger.

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