McAfee Report Finds Rise in Malware Across Platforms

Sue Marquette Poremba
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Identify a Phishing Message in Five Steps

A simple checklist to help identify a potential phishing message.

Think you are using a platform that is safe from malware? You may want to think again.


McAfee just released its Threats Report: First Quarter 2012, and its primary finding is an increase in malware across all platforms. Malware to PCs is at its highest level in years. Android is a major target, with the platform seeing a significant increase. Macs aren't safe, either. The Flashback Trojan made people aware that Apple malware was possible, but according to McAfee, Mac malware has been growing at a steady rate, even if in total numbers the malware is much less than it is on other platforms.


If you look solely at the numbers, they are staggering. For example, according to a McAfee release, by the end of 2011, McAfee Labs collected more than 75 million malware samples for PCs. The first quarter 2012 had the largest number of PC malware detected per quarter in the last four years. This increase brought the grand total to 83 million pieces of malware samples by the end of the first quarter, up from 75 million samples at the end of the fourth quarter 2011. The rise is coming mostly from rootkits, and phishing email is the prime medium for targeting the attack.


I was a little surprised to see the increase in PC malware. I expect these quarterly threat reports to discuss a rise in malware against mobile devices, particularly the Android platform. I think it is only a matter of time until iOS and malware is a major concern (and I think it will come about much faster than malware targeted at Macs, but equally unexpected to users). But malware targeting PCs at a time when people are turning to other types of platforms for their computing is surprising.


The finding that virtually all targeted PC attacks begin with spearphishing is also eye-catching. To me, that says that PC users either haven't become as sophisticated about malware attacks as you would expect (it isn't like spearphishing is something new) or they've become lazy or complacent about security.


In any case, the new McAfee report should serve as a reminder to IT and security professionals that you should never let your guard down when it comes to protecting the network or the data accessed from any device, on any platform. This would be a good time to re-introduce employees to the dangers of spearphishing, as well.


It will be interesting to see how the second quarter shapes up. Is the rise in PC malware an anomaly or is this the sign of what is to come?

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