Malware Surges 26% In 2011

Each day sees 73,190 new samples of Trojans, viruses, worms, and other forms of malware, says report from PandaLabs.
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The volume of malware created by attackers has been increasing. Notably, in the first three months of 2011, the number of new online threats jumped by 26% compared to a year before, and by 16% compared to the end of 2010.

So says a new report from PandaLabs, which studied online threat trends for the beginning of 2011. "So far in 2011, there has been a new surge in the number of IT threats in circulation," according to the PandaLabs report. "In the first three months of the year, there was a daily average of 73,190 new samples of malware, the majority of which were Trojans."

Indeed, Trojans -- including many crimeware variations -- now account for about 70% of all new malware. "These types of threats are favored by organized criminals for stealing bank details so they can perpetrate fraud or steal directly from victims' accounts," said PandaLabs. Other top forms of malware in 2010 were viruses (16%), worms (8%), adware (2%), backdoors (2%), and spyware (0.1%).

Some countries are more infected with malware than others. In particular, more than half of PC users in China, Thailand, Japan, Latvia, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil had their PC infected by some form of malware in 2010. Interestingly, while the United States was on the top 20 list of infected countries for 2009, its infection levels declined last year.

PandaLabs also found that in 2010, attacks against mobile applications increased. Notably, "the beginning of March saw the largest malware attack on Android to date," said PandaLabs, which involved attackers placing 58 malicious applications in the official Android Market, which were downloaded 260,000 times. Google quickly eliminated the applications from the market, and tripped its Android application "kill switch" several days later to remove the applications from all infected devices.

Like most attacks, the malicious Android applications succeeded by exploiting known vulnerabilities. On this front, security researchers and attackers continue to unearth new mobile operating system vulnerabilities. In 2010, they found 163 such vulnerabilities, compared to just 115 in 2009, according to a recent study from Symantec.

But mobile application vulnerabilities and attacks still account for a fraction of today's overall online attack volume. In 2010, researchers found 8,000 new software vulnerabilities -- an increase of 27% over 2009 -- which far outstrips the number of mobile OS vulnerabilities discovered, according to a new report from IBM X-Force. Furthermore, mobile devices remain relatively safe. As IBM said, "attacks against the latest generation of mobile devices were not yet widely prevalent in 2010."