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Risk

1/6/2010
01:31 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Panda Security: Malware Tops 25 Million In 2009

As I read PandaLab's Annual Malware Report, just published yesterday, the headline number of 25 million new malware samples struck me in this way: So What. And it leaves one wondering why some security vendors choose to focus so heavily on Fear, Uncertainly, and Doubt (FUD). Most of that "new" malware crud doesn't get anywhere.

As I read PandaLab's Annual Malware Report, just published yesterday, the headline number of 25 million new malware samples struck me in this way: So What. And it leaves one wondering why some security vendors choose to focus so heavily on Fear, Uncertainly, and Doubt (FUD). Most of that "new" malware crud doesn't get anywhere.If you're interested in my thinking when it comes to counting malware, read Malware Counts: Uncomfortably Numb. I was critical back then of that anti-virus vendor, and how it spun the numbers. But at least they limited their counts to those samples that required a new signature. In June, McAfee counted 1.2 million unique malware apps for the first half of 2009. Now, roughly seven months later we have Panda Security with a tally of 25 million for the year.

Best I could tell from reading the report is that Panda Security counts each sample it gets as "new and different." Not sure what that means. Does that include samples created by a virus writer who ran it through a malware kit and made 300 variants that would be detected with already existing signatures? Did Panda have to write 25 million unique signatures last year? I'm not sure. but I doubt it.

What I am sure of is that these malware counts are as useless as they are meaningless. Here's what I wrote last summer, in the post mentioned above, on the topic:

Should these numbers raise your concern? Not really.

The bad guys are out there, and they're active. We know this. What these numbers show is how easy malcode is morphed. Malware authors have created ways to change their code, in fact, sometimes each time a page is refreshed new code is generated. Does it matter that it is "new" each time the page is reloaded? No. What matters is how vulnerable your systems and your users are to the types of attacks, or threats, coming at them.

These "malware" threats range from old school viruses, keystroke logging Trojans, and backdoors to new complex bots (which make it possible for infected systems to send spam or launch denial of service attacks); to modern redirectors that will send users to fraudulent Web sites regardless of what the user types in the URL bar, and downloaders that are used to plant any type of malware the attacker wishes on a user's system.

That was true in June, it was true (to a much smaller scale) in the 1990s, and it'll be true for probably as long as we're all breathing.

So, please, spare us the hype, and provide insight we can put to use.

However, the report, available here as a .PDF, did provide an interesting overview of attacks and malware in 2009, including social engineering trends and Web 2.0-based attacks, Trojans, and Conficker, and more politically motivated hacking.

Here are a number of predictions in the report:

More security will be provided through the cloud.

The "avalanche" of malware will continue.

More drive-by Web downloads, social engineering, and BlackHat SEO

Malware writers will have to adjust to Windows 7; they'll do so, but it will take a couple of years.

This year won't be the year of widespread mobile phone malware. Attacks aimed at OS X will edge up

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