Security firm Sophos has warned hackers are switching from email to the web as a way of attacking PCs, amidst growing concern in the UK over online fraud.

Web overtakes email as main online crime threat

Sophos claims that it is uncovering 5000 new URLs hosting malware a day, as hackers switch tactics to get around secure email gateways. Tactics such as sending emails loaded with spyware are being replaced by emails containing a link to websites which host a malevolent downloader that will infect the users system with Trojan programmes.

Spyware infected mail now represents the lesser threat compared to this type of web based assault, with figures from Sophos stating that Trojan downloaders now account for 51 per cent of infected mail while mail loaded with spyware accounts for 42 per cent. The firm detected 41,536 new pieces of malware in 2006.

"The internet now represents the easiest way for cyber criminals to gain entry to corporate networks, as more users are accessing unregulated sites, downloading applications and streaming audio and video," Carole Theriault, senior security consultant for Sophos told BBC News. "A great many businesses aren’t geared up to gain insight into users’ online behaviour, let alone control it."

Meanwhile, a survey carried out by YouGov claims that people in the UK are more afraid of being the victim of online fraud than they are of gun crime, climate change or contracting MRSA – while one in seven claimed they knew someone who had been the victim of internet criminals.

Last Month the Financial Services Authority claimed it had recorded an 8,000 per cent rise in internet banking scams in the past two years. Fraud expert Professor Martin Gill claimed that the numbers of internet criminals are being bolstered by new recruits from those previously involved in more traditional illegal activities: "With the introduction of chip-and-pin on the high street, fraudsters have turned to other means to make their money. The internet is a dangerous place to be giving out personal information without taking basic precautions."

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