The first quarter of 2011 has been the busiest ever seen in terms of malware, according to a report by McAfee.
The security experts say they identified more than six million unique malware samples, a figure which by far exceeds previous quarterly figures. The figure is expected to reach 75 million by the end of the year if the trend continues.
Contributing factors to the growth of malicious software include: more users online, a wider variety of platforms to attack, more opportunities for scamming and more efficient ways for attackers to spread malware.
Fake software which pretends to be the solution to virus infections continues to enjoy rapid growth and is not expected to show any sign of slowing due to the revenue it brings. This usually alerts users to a false infection and then drives them to a site where they can buy a bogus “anti-virus” fix.
Trojan infections remain a high risk and there has been a significant rise in password-stealing malware, especially those that target online banking.
Whilst McAfee say that these kind of Trojans are usually simple to combat, new variants appear daily and many are becoming more sophisticated. One such Trojan mentioned in the report has the capability to remove the competition from an infected machine as it detects and kills any infections in order to be alone in its data theft.
The number of malicious websites has also increased as sites that host malware perform phishing attacks or install unwanted software reached an average of 8600 bad sites per day.
Scam sites asking for donations following disasters such as the Japanese tsunami went up quickly after the earthquake and McAfee noted that in the two hours following the event, over 500 malicious sites went up.
Adobe products also continue to be targeted via Flash and PDF and are now considered to be the product of choice for writers of malware. The number of attacks was significant when compared to Microsoft products, which will make MS feel a little smug (but not as smug as Apple, perhaps).
Mobile malware has also seen a huge increase with the majority attacking the Symbian OS. However, malware for Android is increasing daily and is expected to grow significantly as the OS continues its meteoric rise.