PandaLabs has published its Annual Malware Report, which reviews the major incidents and events concerning IT security in 2009.
The outstanding trend of the last 12 months has been the prolific production of new malware: 25 million new strains were created in just one year, compared to a combined total of 15 million throughout the rest of Panda Security’s 20-year history.
This latest surge of activity included countless new examples of banker Trojans, which represented approximately 66 percent of all new samples, as well as a host of fake antivirus programs, also known as rogueware.
The report also draws attention to the resurgence of traditional viruses previously on the verge of extinction, such as Conficker, Sality and the veteran Virutas.
During 2009, spam was also highly active with approximately 92% of all email traffic identified as spam. The tricks used to dupe potential victims into opening these emails have focused heavily on exploiting current affairs and dramatic news stories – a tactic which also applied to search engine optimisation (SEO) attacks.
PandaLabs saw waves of junk mail related to celebrity scandals or deaths (real or fictitious), as well as topical events like swine flu and compromising videos of politicians to name but two. PandaLabs also tracked how spam impacted different industrial sectors, revealing that the automotive and consumer electronics industries were the worst affected, followed by government agencies.
In terms of malware distribution channels, social networks were favoured by cybercriminals in 2009. The main targets were Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Digg. SEO attacks were also used to direct users to malware-laden websites. Cybercriminals continued to consolidate underground business models that exploited social engineering techniques to generate revenues.
The report also examines how individual countries and regions have been affected throughout the year, based on the data gathered from computers scanned and disinfected free of charge with Panda ActiveScan.
Taiwan tops the rankings, followed by Russia, Poland, Turkey, Colombia, Argentina and Spain. Countries suffering fewest infections include Portugal and Sweden. Last year also saw a rise in the number of cyber attacks with political motives or targets.
PandaLabs predicts that the amount of malware in circulation will continue to grow during 2010. Windows 7 will attract the interest of hackers when it comes to designing new malware, and attacks on Apple computers will increase. While the industry will also witness more politically motivated attacks, PandaLabs believes that 2010 will not be the year of the cell phone virus.