McAfee’s quarterly security report released last Wednesday reveals that malware has hit an all time high in recent memory. McAfee alone registered 83 million samples in the first quarter of this year, the biggest increase of malware in the last four years.
Among the different types of malware doing the rounds, software with faked security signature, root kits or stealth programs that allow privileged access to the target computer, and Trojan horses aimed at stealing passwords seem to be the flavor of the season. Only fake antivirus programs seem to have declined compared to the past.
The rising incidence of fake or forged signatures is a special cause for concern. Normally, software vendors digitally sign the software to certify that it is safe to install. The user depends on such signatures to determine the credibility of the software. For instance, a user would more likely install software signed by McAfee or Microsoft rather than someone unknown. The widespread success of the Duqu and Stuxnut viruses, which spread through fake signatures, have shown the way for scammers and cyber criminals to forge signatures, to trick users into believing that their malware infested software comes from a reputed vendor, increasing the chances of installation.
The report also speaks of the rising tide of botnets. The few efforts to take down such “evil networks” by destroying their command and control centers have been drowned out in the tidal surge of new botnets that proliferate by the day. The most active botnet in the first quarter of 2012 was Cutwail, with more than a million new machines added to its sway during the period. Interestingly, more than half of all new botnet command and control servers are located in the U.S.