Last year was a turning point for cyber attacks. It was the year when the predominant threats on the Internet transitioned from being perpetrated by hobbyist hackers to criminals.This is according to a recent report issued by Counterpane Internet Security Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of network protection services, and MessageLabs Ltd., a provider of messaging security with regional headquarters in New York City.

"Security threats have rapidly evolved," says Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane. "In just 12 months, cyber-criminals have moved away from deploying large-scale generalized attacks ... toward carefully engineered attacks calculated for precise outcomes." This approach is epitomized by 2005's epidemic of identity theft and financial fraud, he says.

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