Software giant Microsoft Thursday said the Conficker worm was detected approximately 220 million times worldwide in the past two-and-a-half years, making it one of the biggest ongoing threats to enterprises.
The Microsoft Security Intelligence Report volume 12 (SIRv12) also revealed the worm continues to spread because of weak or stolen passwords and vulnerabilities for which a security update exists.
The study analyzes data from more than 600 million systems worldwide and offers solutions for mitigating both targeted and broad-based attacks such as Conficker.
According to SIRv12, quarterly detections of the Conficker worm have increased by more than 225 percent since the beginning of 2009. In the fourth quarter of 2011 alone, Conficker was detected on 1.7 million systems worldwide.
In examining the reasons behind Conficker's prevalence in organizations, research showed that 92 percent of Conficker infections were a result of weak or stolen passwords, and eight percent of infections exploited vulnerabilities for which a security update exists.
"Conficker is one of the biggest security problems we face, yet it is well within our power to defend against," said Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.
"It is critically important that organizations focus on the security fundamentals to help protect against the most common threats."
The SIRv12 also revealed that many of the threats often referred to as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are no more advanced or sophisticated than other types of attacks.
In most cases, these attacks leverage known vectors such as exploiting weak or stolen passwords and vulnerabilities for which security updates exist, but their success lies in the persistence and determination in trying different tactics to compromise the target, the report said.
It also recommends that customers and businesses adhere to the following security fundamentals to help ensure they are protected:
* Use strong passwords and educate employees on their importance
* Keep systems up-to-date by regularly applying available updates for all products
* Use antivirus software from a trusted source
* Invest in newer products with a higher quality of software protection
* Consider the cloud as a business resource.