Computer worms raced around the world, leaving behind tools that spread spam. Scammers sent e-mail to trick bank account holders into revealing passwords. Rogue programs known as “spyware” hijacked Web browsers and crippled computers.
These were among the top Internet threats of 2004 as the perpetrators grew smarter and more sophisticated, driven more than ever by economic gains. And while technology to combat such threats has improved, experts concede that’s not enough to address what’s bound to emerge in the coming year.
“The bottom line is, there is no silver bullet technology,” said Gregg Mastoras, senior security analyst at security vendor Sophos Inc. “I just don’t think users are educated enough when they are on machines and what they are doing with it.”
The past year saw more industry attention to security: Microsoft Corp. upgraded its flagship Windows XP operating system, closing many loopholes and turning on a built-in firewall to thwart attacks. America Online Inc. gave away free security tools, and computer makers began installing software to combat spyware.
Dozens of products and services were developed to attack “phishing” — e-mail pretending to be from trusted names such as Citibank or Paypal, but directing recipients to rogue sites.