Research Points to Faster Threat Development

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-07-06 Print this article Print

According to a new report issued by anti-malware specialist McAfee, IT threats are cropping up at a faster rate than the computing industry has ever seen before.

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.

McAfees 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 McAfees records.

"Its 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 lions 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.

In 2004, McAfee claims it added 27,340 new threats to its database, with an additional 56,880 attacks arriving in 2005. Since Jan. 1, 2006, McAfee has added approximately 32,000 new threats to its database and said it is on track to exceed 60,000 new attacks charted over the course of 2006.

If the current rate of malware proliferation continues, McAfee said it expects to identify its 400,000th new threat in less than two years time, or well before the end of 2008.

Adding to the issue, one well-known hacker said in early July that he has stockpiled browser exploits and plans to release one flaw a day for the entire month to highlight the types of vulnerabilities affecting the worlds most widely used Web browsers.

HD Moore, co-founder of the Metasploit Framework, has launched a new project called MoBB (Month of Browser Bugs) with daily releases of proof-of-concept code for flaws in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Konqueror.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.

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