“Old” Malware Attacks Rising Significantly

Earlier this week McAfee Labs™ released the McAfee Threats Report: First Quarter 2013, which reported that malware shows no sign of changing its steady growth, which has risen steeply during the last two quarters.

Many of the most significant growth trends from previous three quarters actually went into remission, while older types of attacks and what can only be called “retro-malware” experienced significant new growth.

The resurgence of these “retro-malware” includes:

  • Koobface: This worm targets Facebook, Twitter and other social networking users was first discovered in 2008, and had been relatively flat for the last year yet it tripled in the first quarter of 2013 to levels never previously seen. That’s a record high point and double the size of the prior mark, set in the fourth quarter of 2009. The resurgence demonstrates that the cybercriminal community believes that social networking users constitute a very target-rich environment of potential victims. To avoid falling victim make sure you are careful of what links you click on in social media sites—don’t fall for those too good to be true deals!
  • Mobile Malware:  Android malware continued to skyrocket, increasing by 40% in Q1. Almost 30% of all mobile malware appeared this quarter. While the overall growth of mobile malware declined slightly this quarter, McAfee Labs expects to see another record year for mobile malware. You need to be proactive and protect your mobile devices with comprehensive security software and pay attention to social engineering attempts to get you to give up your personal information.
  • Suspect URLs: Cybercriminals continued their movement away from botnets and towards drive-by downloads as the primary distribution mechanism for malware. At the end of March, the total number of suspect URLs tallied by McAfee Labs overtook 64.3 million, which represents a 12% increase over the fourth quarter. This growth is most likely fueled by the fact that these malicious sites are more nimble and less susceptible to law enforcement takedowns. You should take care to make sure you’re using a safe search tool to visit sites that you know are safe before you click.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware has become an increasing problem during the last several quarters, and the situation continues to worsen. With ransomware, cybercriminals hold your computer or mobile device files “hostage” and insist on payment to unlock it. But there are no guarantees that they will “free” your device after you pay. One reason for ransomware’s growth is that it is a very efficient means for criminals to earn money and various anonymous payment services make it hard to track them down. The problem of ransomware will not disappear anytime soon. You should always take precautions to back up your valuable data.
  • AutoRun malware:  Traditionally, AutoRun worms were distributed via USB thumb drives or CDs. This type of malware can allow an attacker to take control of your system or install password stealers. AutoRun malware has risen rapidly for two quarters and reached a new high, with almost 1.7 million new threats. The spike is likely being driven by the popularity of cloud-based file-sharing services. Having comprehensive security that automatically scans all devices that are attached to your computer and scans your hard drive is a must to protect against this.
  • Spam: After three years of stagnation, spam email volume rose dramatically. McAfee Labs counted 1.9 trillion messages as of March, which is lower than records levels, but about twice the volume of December 2012. One significant element behind this growth in North America was the return of “pump and dump” spam campaigns, which targeted would-be investors hoping to capitalize on all-time equity market highs.


We are facing an uphill battle against the growing threats and attacks. Fortunately we can protect all our devices including PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets with one solution, McAfee LiveSafe. Of course you should still take care to educate yourself on the latest threats and techniques that cybercriminals use and be suspicious of anything that doesn’t seem right.

Stay safe!


Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. Watch him discussing information he found on used electronic devices YouTube. (Disclosures)

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