While the information technology sector was hit with a large number of on- line attacks in 2001, this year's activity is likely to dwarf those threats, projects Predictive Systems Inc.

Though there was growth in the frequency, variety and sophistication of worms, 2002 will see the emergence of worms with multiple attack methods and larger target populations, Predictive says. In addition, worms will increasingly be used for the creation of distributed agent networks, which will then be used for scanning systems and exploiting vulnerabilities. Detecting and defending against the attacks also will be more difficult, the firm notes.

A worm is a program or algorithm that replicates itself over a computer network and usually performs malicious acts, such as using up the computer's resources and possibly shutting the system down.

"As malicious code authors implement new propagation methods, hacker tools become more readily available and easier to use, and the number and potency of worms and viruses grow, information security threats and vulnerabilities will continue to increase dramatically," says Jim Jones, Predictive director of information security analysis. "This year will likely not only see an increase in exploitation of known threats and vulnerabilities, but will also see the emergence of significant new ones."

In addition to the threats, most software will continue to be sold with vulnerabilities. This presents a greater risk today as interest in exploiting programs has increased substantially, Predictive notes.

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