Malware creation broke all records during the first quarter of 2014, with a figure of more than 15 million new samples, and more than 160,000 new samples appearing every day, according to a report from cloud-based security solutions specialist Panda Security.
Trojans--malware programs containing malicious code that, when executed, carry out actions typically causing loss or theft of data, and possible system harm--topped the ranking of newly created malware, accounting for 71.85 percent of the total, followed by worms, with 12.25 percent, and viruses with 10.45 percent.
According to data from PandaLabs, four out of five infections around the world were caused by Trojans--79.90 percent of the total, which means Trojans were far and away the type of malware most commonly used by cyber-criminals to infect users.
Mobile devices and social networks continue to be popular targets for cyber-criminals. In the mobile sector, the highly fragmented Google Android ecosystems remains particularly vulnerable.
The report revealed many of these involve subscribing users to premium-rate SMS services without their knowledge, both through Google Play as well as ads on Facebook, using the free texting service WhatsApp as bait.
The Syrian Electronic Army was particularly active in the social media arena, compromising the accounts of major companies worldwide. Its victims included Microsoft, whose @XboxSupport and Microsoft News (@MSFTNews) Twitter accounts were both hacked.
"During the first three months of the year we have witnessed some of the biggest data thefts since the creation of the Internet, and as expected, Cryptolocker, the malicious file-encrypting ransomware which demands a ransom to unblock files, has continued to claim victims," the company warned.
European countries ranked high among the least infected countries, particularly in Scandinavia, with the best figures coming from Sweden (21.03 percent) and Norway (21.14 percent), followed by Germany (24.18 percent).
Japan, which with a ratio of 24.21 percent, was the only non-European country in the top 10 of the list. China was once again the country prone to the most infections, with a rate of 52.36 percent, followed by Turkey with 43.59 percent and Peru close behind with 42.14 percent.
The report also noted China is the only country in the world with an infection rate over 50 percent. Although Spain is not in the top 10 of this ranking, it is still above the global average with 33.57 percent. The global infection rate during the first three months of 2014 was 32.77 percent, PandaLabs reported.
"Over these months, levels of cyber-crime have continued to rise. In fact, we have witnessed some of the biggest data thefts since the creation of the Internet, with millions of users affected," Luis Corrons, a security specialist at PandaLabs, said in a statement.