Research Points to Faster Threat Development

Security software maker McAfee contends that IT threats are growing in volume at a significantly faster pace than at any previous era through which it has tracked the propagation of malware code.

McAfee’s Avert Labs reported that it recently passed what researchers consider to be a significant milestone, recording into its threat database the 200,000th piece of known malware code it has discovered. McAfee said it entered the 100,000th identified attack into its records in September 2004, signifying a leap in the appearance of new threats since that time, compared with previous years.

The security provider claims that it took 18 years for its researchers to find the original 100,000 attacks, compared with less than two years to double its total. The growth represents a 60 percent decrease in the amount of time necessary to generate the second 100,000 threats, based on McAfee’s records.

“It’s remarkable to note that it took 18 years for our database to reach 100,000 malicious threats—and just under two years to double to 200,000,” Stuart McClure, senior vice president of global research and threats at McAfee, said in the report. “Although security awareness continues to improve, hackers and malicious code authors are releasing threats faster than ever before, with approximately 200 percent more malicious threats per day than two years ago.”

McAfee charts the rising number of infected PCs stricken with so-called botnet viruses, which allow the machines to be remotely operated by hackers, as the leading contributor to the rapid proliferation of new threats. The computers taken into botnet attacks are typically used to pass malicious code onto other devices.

Other significant problems include more sophisticated and prevalent vulnerability exploits and virus downloading tools, McAfee said. E-mail-borne threats, which made up a lion’s share of the attacks reported in 2004, have slowed their growth rates over the last two years when compared with the other categories of malware.

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