Malware Surpasses 75 Million Unique Samples

Malware appears to be on the rise, with the overall number of unique samples growing to 75 million in 2011 with Google’s Android mobile OS becoming the mail focus for malicious software last year.

February 27, 2012

Malicious Sites Nearly Double, while Android Becomes a Fresh Target

Malware appears to be on the rise, with the overall number of unique samples growing to 75 million in 2011 with Google’s Android mobile OS becoming the mail focus for malicious software last year.

This is according to security provider McAfee’s Threats Report for the final quarter of 2011.

“The threat landscape continued to evolve in 2011, and we saw a significant shift in motivation for cyber-attacks,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs.

“Increasingly, we’ve seen that no organisation, platform or device is immune to the increasingly sophisticated and targeted threats. On a global basis, we are conducting more of our personal and business transactions through mobile devices, and this is creating new security risks and challenges in how we safeguard our commercial and personal data.”

The overall growth of PC-based malware actually declined throughout the fourth quarter of 2011, and is significantly lower year on year. The cumulative number of unique malware samples in the collection still exceeds the 75 million mark. In total, both 2011 and the fourth quarter were by far the busiest periods for mobile malware that McAfee has seen yet, with Android firmly fixed as the largest target for writers of mobile malware.

Contributing to the rise in malware were rootkits, or stealth malware. Though rootkits are some of the most sophisticated classifications of malware, designed to evade detection and “live” on a system for a prolonged period, they showed a slight decline in the fourth quarter.

Global spam has also reached its lowest point in years says McAfee – particularly in areas such as the United Kingdom, Brazil, Argentina and South Korea. Despite the drop in global levels, the company found that the present spear phishing and spam are highly sophisticated.

Overall botnet growth rebounded in November and December after falling since August, with Brazil, Columbia, India, Spain and the United States all seeing significant increases. Germany, Indonesia and Russia declined. Of the botnets, Cutwail continues to reign supreme, while Lethic has been on a steady decline since last quarter.