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Symantec CEO: ‘It’s a new theater of war’ for cybercriminals

·Technology Editor

If you didn’t think the internet was a wretched hive of scum and villainy before, Symantec (SYMC) CEO Greg Clark might just change your mind. Clark, who sat down for an interview with David Pogue at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, explained how criminals on the internet are not only incredibly active, but are almost always changing where they live online and how they attack.

“It’s a new theater of war. It’s serious business,” Clark said.

To put a finer point on it, Clark explained that about 60% of hostnames on the internet are open for just 24 hours or less, which suggests they might exist solely for criminal activity. Hostnames are used to point to specific sites on the internet. For instance, www.yahoofinance.com is a hostname for Yahoofinance.com. Now, think about the millions of hostnames on the internet at any given moment, and you begin to understand how truly enormous that 60% figure really is.

One of the most nefarious ways in which cybercriminals attack is through email phishing or spear phishing attacks. Phishing attacks come in the form of emails that trick users into downloading malware-infected software or clicking links that take them to malware-infected websites that automatically install malicious code on a person’s computer.

That software can then turn your PC, smartphone or tablet into a zombie device for a botnet army that can be used to flood targeted websites with requests for information until they can keep up and go offline.

Alternatively, phishing and spear phishing attacks can trick users to download ransomware, which can lock down a person’s computer. The criminals will then keep the computer locked down until the victim pays up, usually in the form of Bitcoin.

Both of these kinds of attacks are caused by people unknowingly infecting their own computers. And as Pogue put it, “There is no antivirus program for human stupidity.”

Clark, however, pointed to Symantec’s own Project Dolphin. The system sees Symantec scour the world’s websites to determine if they appear similar to “known phishing” sites. The idea is to identify phishing websites before they actually take off and prevent victims from visiting them by accident.

So there might just be an antivirus for human stupidity after all. Sign me up.

More from Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit:

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.