Rockets bursting in air, fireworks everywhere! Thank you for helping mark the 200,000th entry into the VirusScan malware (malevolent software) detection database.
But truly, this is not a moment to celebrate. For, larger and larger numbers of malware is a plague, not a cause to celebrate. Instead, we mark this moment simply as a milestone in our continual trip to fend off the bad stuff from everyone's machines.
It is alarming that we reach this milestone so soon after September 2004 when the count reached 100,000. Eighteen years to reach 100,000. Less than two years to double. Looking ahead, our researchers expect yet another doubling in a similar timeframe. So, 100,000 new threats in the past two years, 200,000 new threats to come in the next two years!
Malware Count and Rate of Growth
The last two years have marked a tremendous increase in downloaders and bots, malware that has as its purpose to commandeer the target machine, to be used by the Command and Control machine. Or rather, the person sitting behind that machine, who has as his motive, $$$$$$$.
In early 2004, a number of viruses like Netsky, Bagle, and Mydoom would infect multiple millions of machines with each release of a new variant. Many millions of machines would be compromised in a short amount of time causing great financial strife and immediate reaction from IT personnel as well as law enforcement. Soon, Sven Jaschan was arrested for the creation of the Netsky and Sasser families of viruses. At about the same time, the author of Gaobot/Agobot and Phatbot was also arrested. With these two events, we all hoped the arrests would stem the tide on malware.
Instead, malware distribution changed dramatically. In the first half of 2004, 31 virus outbreaks were rated Medium and above. The second half of 2004 saw 17 more. That number fell to 12 for the whole of 2005. And in 2006, there have been no outbreaks of similar severity! Instead of huge virus events causing ire from all segments including law enforcement, the preferred method of malware distribution now involves the creation of many minor variants sent through controlled spam efforts. Good family detection becomes crucial for a less worrisome experience on the Internet.
Another area of concern is the growth of malware targeting mobile telephony. The numbers are still small, only near 300. As a result, rates of growth are exaggerated. However, it will grow. The worry, as our past experience would show with other forms of malware, the growth will fashion similarly to the above graph. Except, time will be compressed. We are still in the era where malware targeting telephony is not yet purposefully stealing money. And that is the concern. When the phone becomes the standard means to transfer money, malware targeting telephony will truly explode, much as bots and other means to steal money over the Internet have consumed our energies these past two years.
And so, on this July 4th, our thanks to the men and women who serve, so we can all enjoy our liberties and pursue happiness. And thanks also to the cadre of dedicated anti-malware researchers who on this day added that 200,000th malware detection entry, so we may pursue our enjoyment of the Internet experience with a little less worry.