More Ties Drawn Between Markets and Malware

By Matthew Hines  |  Posted 2008-10-23 Print this article Print

PandaLabs' newest report on the ties existing between economic market trends and cybercrime traces an intriguing arc between recent activity in the U.S. stock market and malware attacks.

The security company's prediction last week that the recent rise of phony anti-virus applications stands as proof that cyber-criminals won't be slowed by worldwide economic turmoil seemed less conclusive in aligning financial market uncertainty with electronic threats.

But PandaLabs' latest, which looks at malware activity in direct relation to ongoing business and performance trends in the U.S. banking and stock market would appear to outline a potentially ominous picture in terms of marrying the rate of economic decline to the uptick in criminal proceedings.

(Or the whole malware thing just happens to be booming at the same time that the markets have dipped. Either way, it's an interesting comparison.)

"When we began looking into the specific effects cybercriminals had on our economy during times of duress we found a startling connection: the criminal economy is closely interrelated with our own economy," Ryan Sherstobitoff, chief corporate evangelist for Panda said in a summary of the research.

"Based on our extensive research and analysis of emerging malware patterns, we believe that criminal organizations are closely watching market performance and adapting as needed to ensure maximum profit."

Panda contends that the federal government's recent passage of the $700 billion bailout is driving a "surge" in activity by cybercriminals who now have "fewer possible targets as a result of consolidation within the banking industry."

I mean, it would make sense, right?

Specifically, the company claims that the situation has "increased the volume of other types of malware such as adware, which under normal circumstances would be second to Trojans."

Here are the numbers that Panda is hanging its conclusions on:

-On average, the U.S. stock market experienced between a 3 to 7 percent decline from Sept. 1st to Oct. 9th: meanwhile, malware volume moved in opposite, growing substantially as the stock markets declined.

-From Sept. 5th to 16th, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average, NASDAQ, S&P 500 and Composite Index all dropped from the plus 0.0 percent range to approximately negative 3.0 percent or lower, there was a noticeable increase in daily malware threats, as in from Sept. 8th to Sept 10th, when the volume of daily threats jumped from 10,150 to over 24,000.

-From Sept. 14th to 16th, stock markets dropped from -0.5 to -5.5 percent while daily threats grew from 8,276 on the 14th to over 31,404 on the 16th.

So there you have it, those are some pretty unique statistics. Clearly the trends could be coincidental, especially since cybercrime has been growing exponentially whether the economy has been sinking or not, but, it may not be too far fetched either.

My bet is still that the economy turns around well before malware volumes stop peaking.

But there is a world malware market, and it is undoubtedly already as tied to other market trends as the rest of them.

Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to |

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