New Malware Soars 43% to Reach 21 Million in Q2

New malware levels soared in the second quarter of 2015 to reach 21 million, although infection rates in the UK and Europe remained low, according to the latest stats from Panda Security.

The Spanish security firm’s PandaLabs Report Q2 2015 claimed the period witnessed an average of 230,000 new types of malware each day, a 43% increase from the same three months last year.

The rising volume of threats can be explained by cyber-criminals’ ongoing efforts to evade malware filters, supported by automated malware generation tools.

Most common are trojans, which accounted for 71% of all samples. Traditional viruses were a long way behind in second (11%) followed by worms (6%).

Asian and Latin American countries had the highest infection rates, led by China (47.5%), Turkey (43%), Peru (42%) and Russia (41%).

Meanwhile, Europe had the lowest rate of infections in the world, with the Netherlands (28%), Portugal (27%) and Belgium (27%) out in front.

The UK was the sixth lowest with a 25% infection rate – a long way below the global average of 32%, although a Panda Security spokesman told Infosecurity that “vigilance is still required.”

Notorious ransomware Cryptolocker was highlighted by Panda as causing havoc in Q2. It noted that hackers have been infecting users of late using Office macros.

Although these have to be switched on for the attack to continue, cyber-criminals are now presenting users with a blurred document image, tricking them into enabling macros.

“As soon as the trojan runs it saves multiple copies of itself, adds a registry entry so it runs each time the machine starts, and begins to encrypt valuable files using an asymmetric public-private key encryption algorithm (RSA) that only the cyber-criminal can provide the unlock key for. All files on local and network drives are vulnerable,” a Panda Security spokesman told Infosecurity.

“When Cryptolocker has finished encrypting every file that meets a defined criteria it will then display the ransom message to the user with details of how to pay and a countdown timer.”

The firm urged users to mitigate the ransomware threat by keeping all OS and third-party software patched; using reputable security software; treating unsolicited emails with caution; disabling hidden file extensions in Windows; and maintaining a back-up system for critical files – disconnected when not in use.

“If you become infected and don’t have a backup copy of your files, our recommendation is not to pay the ransom,” Panda added.

“That’s never a good solution, as it turns the malware into a highly profitable business model and will contribute to the flourishing of this type of attack.”

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