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Malware attacks have declined in volume but are more sophisticated

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According to a new report, in 2016, users are over 20 per cent less likely to encounter malware and other malicious executable files than they were a year ago.

To compile the first installment of its Quarterly Threat Trends report, the internet security company Webroot collected data from its Webroot Threat Intelligence Platform through the first half of 2016 and compared it to previous threat data from 2014 and 2015.

The company found that although the number of overall malware encounters has decreased, malware attacks themselves have grown even more sophisticated and short-lived. Many of the attacks Webroot found appear, infect a user and disappear with hours or even minutes. In that time, the malware has successfully obtained sensitive data, launched ransomware or has found other means of achieving financial gain from its victims.

The report also found that Google and Wells Fargo were both heavily targeted by phishing attacks that rose in occurrence from May. By June of this year, these companies were the two most targeted technology and financial companies. Webroot also found that “phishers” have begun to implement polymorphic URLs which enables attackers to target numerous users at once while still avoiding traditional detection.

Webroot's Quarterly Threat Trends report also shed light on the fact that the US now hosts over 40 per cent of malicious URLs which is a slight increase from 2015. This has likely occurred due to attackers trying to circumvent geofiltering services as the US has a high percentage of legitimate websites.    

Tyler Moffitt, a senior threat research analyst at Webroot offered further insight on the report, saying: “The report data demonstrates that, while malware encounters may be on a downturn, the business of cybercrime is indeed alive and well. 

"As attack timelines accelerate and polymorphism continues to grow and spread across attack vectors, it's more important than ever for organisations to adopt next-generation security approaches that can adapt and predict malware behaviours as they evolve.” 

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Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.