Malware on the Rise


Malware is the thing to look out for these days. McAfee claims that they tracked more than six million different unique malware samples in the first quarter alone. Those numbers make the first quarter the most active quarter for malware issues ever.

In a statement, Vincent Weafer, the senior vice president of McAfee Labs, said, “It’s been a busy start to 2011 for cybercriminals.”

McAfee went on to say that February was the most active malware month. In February, 2011 there were 2.75 million samples alone. According to the company, in March, 2011 there were also more than 350,000 fake anti-virus software samples, which was the highest level in over a year; however, partially in part to the demise of the Rustock botnet, spam is at the lowest level since 2007.

“Even though this past quarter once again showed that spam has slowed, it doesn’t mean that cybercriminals aren’t actively pursuing alternate avenues,” Weafer continued. “We’re seeing a lot of emerging threats, such as Android malware and new botnets attempting to take over where Rustock left off, that will have a significant impact on the activity we see quarter after quarter.”

The most popular OS for mobile malware is still Symbian, but McAfee reported that Android is gaining on Symbian and came in at number two. McAfee thinks that Android isn’t number one because Google allows for the side-loading of Android apps. This means that it does not have a main spot where it checks apps for any possible suspicious behavior.

Just this past week, Google had to remove more than two dozen apps from their Android Market due to malware issues. NetQuin, a mobile security firm, also identified more than 20 malware filled Android apps that went to the extent of auto-dialing phones to pile up high user fees.

When dealing with spam, McAfee tracked more than 1.5 trillion messages each and every day, but thankfully that number is less than half of what it was just a year ago.

Government agencies across the globe have been working hard to crack down on cybercrime. In September dozens of international cyber-gangsters who were responsible for the creation and spread of the Zeus botnet were arrested. Also, thanks to Microsoft, FireEye (an anti-malware company), the University of Washington and Pfizer (a pharmaceutical firm) Rustock was taken down in March.

In their statement McAfee warned that the creators of the Zeus bot are hard at work merging the Zeus code with the SpyEye botnet. This would affect banking and online transactions, so it could cause some major issues if it isn’t handled.

“There was a strong uptick in new botnet infections toward the end of Q1, most likely due to the reseeding process, where cybercriminals slow down activity in order to spend time rebuilding botnets,” McAfee said. “The botnet takedowns have resulted in an increase in the price of sending spam on the underground marketplace, showing that the laws of supply and demand also apply to cybercrime.”

So why are people even falling for these threats? Well, cyber-criminals are very sophisticated these days. They make their scams look legit, so it’s hard to tell that it’s a threat sometimes until it’s too late. It seems that the spam that is promoting an actual product seemed to lure in the most people. IGNORE the e-mails advertising iPads and HDTVs. McAfee also noted a rise in “banker” Trojans. They lure people in talking about things like UPS, FedEx, USPS and the IRS. Unfortunately, on top of that, scammers are also taking advantage of crisis events like the Japan earthquake and tsunamis.

It’s just important to pay attention to what you are opening up or downloading before you do it. If you’re careful and take the necessary precautions, you should most likely be able to avoid any issues.

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