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Email Hosting Vulnerabilities Heightened with Improvements in Web Exploit Kits

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July 26, 2012

Email Hosting Vulnerabilities Heightened with Improvements in Web Exploit Kits

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Advancements in communications have rendered some of the old standbys as antiquated and old-fashioned. The younger generation sometimes refers to email communications as on its deathbed.

In reality, however, email is still an important communication tool within the corporate environment, and therefore it is also a vulnerable pinpoint for malicious activity. When considering email hosting solutions, businesses need to explore secure options.

A recent eWeek report explored the recent activity in Web exploit kits, solutions increasingly targeting the vulnerability within Java environments. HP’s Jason Jones plans to discuss the vulnerabilities at the Black Hat show on Friday.

One HP security expert shared that Web exploit kids are becoming harder to detect and more complex, putting increasingly powerful tools in the hands of cyber-criminals. Toolkits such as Phoenix and Blackhole leverage a more traditional software business model. And as companies continue to lag in applying fixes and updates, email hosting platforms become more vulnerable.

Jones told eWeek that these criminals are consistently improving their capabilities and take what they do very seriously. For them, it’s an occupation. At the Black Hat 2012 show, Jones will outline his research into the more common Web exploit toolkits available on the market and what steps companies can take to try and combat the threats.

The most popular toolkit for cyber-criminals over the past few years has definitely been the Phoenix, although the Blackhole platform recently eclipsed its success. Of the malicious URLs identified by M86 (News - Alert) Security between July and December of 2011, Blackhole was the identified source of 95 percent of them, demonstrating the rapid growth and adoption of this toolkit.

As for Phoenix, only 1.3 of the links analyzed by M86 were infected with this toolkit. As a result of these findings, researchers recommend ramping up security for Blackhole over other threats.

The source of its popularity? Experts believe it has everything to do with the fact that those behind the toolkit make its source code available for a free download last year and anyone with the right knowhow could easily modify. The commercial kit is readily sold in the underground for around $1,500.

Email hosting solutions are an important tool in combating these threats as a great number of malicious links are delivered through unsolicited emails. Corporations tend to have protections in place to combat unwanted messages, but Blackhole and Phoenix developers are smart enough to know how to stay one step ahead of malicious activities.

And as development continues throughout the cyber-criminal community, email hosting and Java platforms especially will be highly vulnerable. 

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend
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Edited by Braden Becker

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