Malware may be the boomingest niche in a slow economy

Change in focus from sabotage to stealing will make cybercrime even more lucrative


Looking in vain for any bright spots in the current economy? Wondering if the economy will beat out mutant microbes, global climate change, zombie epidemics or robot insurgencies as the one thing that will push human civilization over the edge of sanity and into a Mel Gibson movie?

If it helps at all, there is one shining bright spot in the technology universe, one area of specialty in which spirits are high, technical barriers are falling, new markets are opening and the money is flowing deep as the Mississippi in Spring.

That is, we have to assume the money is flowing from the rush of new products and obvious enthusiasm with which they're being used. The developers are kind of reluctant to say.

That's the only thing they're reluctant about, though, according to PandaLabs, which released its quarterly report on activity in the global malware market.

During July, August and September of this year, Panda identified more than five million new samples of malware, including a record number of Trojan Horse viruses, which made up three quarters of all the new malware samples found.

And they're not short of distribution methods or partners.

The number of web sites surreptitiously feeding users malware in as well as content went up 89 percent in the third quarter of this year alone, compared Q2, according to security company IID (which stands for Internet Identity).

Most lure victims in by posing as well-known, well-trusted organizations, the most popular being the FDIC, Federal Reserve, IRS and National Automated Clearing House, according to IID's report.

Trojans have always been the most common variety of malware, but really sprung ahead this quarter, from 68 percent of all malware to 77 percent. By comparison, viruses made up just 12 percent of the total, with worms (6.3 percent) followed by adware in last place with 3.52 percent.

That low number for adware is deceptive, though. That 3.52 percent is more than twice as much adware as during the previous quarter, mostly due to an increase in fake antivirus schemes.

Fake AV vendors get smarter, far less numerous

The total number of face AVs is actually down compared to previous years, according to GFI Labs, but new approaches – including taking advantage of the rising popularity of Macs to pitch poison anti-virus to Mac users – has made them more effective.

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