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Malware Attack! 'Drive-By Downloads', 'Ransomware' Invade

By Oonagh Reidy | Wednesday | 05/09/2012

'Zoos', 'ransomware' and 'drivebys': , We've all heard of drive by shootings but "drive by downloads" among the new online pests on the prowl.

Click to enlarge
Malicious software known as malware is at a four time high, warns security guru McAfee as it releases shocking new infection figures for Q2.

There has been a spike of 1.5 million malware incidents since Q1.

McAfee Labs' "zoo" of malware samples is also running wild and the discovery rate has almost hit 100,000 per day.

And it looks like the malware spike has been driven by smartphones and tablets with mobile "drive-by downloads", mobile "ransomware" and cybercriminals using Twitter to control of mobile botnets, among the identified threats in computerland.

This comes as the number of smartphone and tablet owners reaches an all time high. Over 2m tablets will be purchased here in Australia in 2012 alone and smartphones have a 50% penetration rate.

Although the mobile malware explosion began in Q1, it is continuing unabated with Android malware a particular issue and shows no signs of slowing down, warns the McAfee report.

"Virtually all new mobile malware detected in Q2 2012 was directed at the Android platform, and was comprised of SMS-sending malware, mobile botnets, spyware and destructive Trojans," says McAfee

But Apple devices aren't safe from harm either with a noticeable jump in Mac malware also including the recent Flashback Trojan infection.

In June, Telstra revealed tests to prevent botnets on BigPond network, which could have turned half a million PCs into a zombie army.

Here's a lowdown on the most common malware identified by McAfee:

Ransomware, where hold computers and data are held hostage is steadily increasing and has become a popular avenue for cybercriminals. Damage can range from loss of photos and personal files for home users to data encryption and demands for money for large enterprises.

Botnets - a network of malware infected computers infected and used to generate spam, send viruses or cause Web servers to fail, are at a 12-month high.

Twitter is now being used for mobile botnet command, as the attacker can tweet commands with relative anonymity and all infected devices will follow them.

Password-stealing malware that collects account names and passwords, so an attacker can pose as the victim is also at an all time high with 1.6 million new samples discovered by McAfee.

Thumb drive and password-stealing malware showed significant growth in Q2, and collects account names and passwords, so an attacker can pose as the victim.

"Attacks that we've traditionally seen on PCs are now making their way to other devices. For example, in Q2 we saw Flashback , which targeted Macintosh devices and techniques such as ransomware and drive-by downloads targeting mobile," said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs.

McAfee Labs also recorded an average of 2.7 million new bad URLs per month related to about 300,000 bad domains, which is equivalent to 10,000 new malicious domains every day.

This report highlights the need for protection on all devices that may be used to access the Internet, says McAfee. 

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