My laptop was recently infected with malware designed to steal bank authentication data. Needless to say, it scared the “$%@#” out of me until I removed it and verified my machine was clean – a day later. I was not happy. That’s a day in my life I will never get back. Oddly enough, I picked up the malicious software in a support forum for the WordPress theme I use for this blog. I will explain more about that in a future article but for this post I want to focus on malware and how big the problem has evolved in recent years.
The term malware is a contraction for the phrase malicious software. It’s a general term referring to
“a variety of hostile, intrusive, or annoying software or program code. Malware includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, spyware, dishonest adware, crimeware, most rootkits, and other malicious and unwanted software.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malware, available under Creative Commons Attribution License)
In addition to the huge negative financial impact malware has throughout the world (negative unless you are an antivirus software vendor), these insidious pieces of code also rob us of one of our most precious resources – time. Whether you are chasing a deadline at work or rushing to get your taxes done online, if your computer gets attacked by malware you are usually stopped cold until the problem is resolved. If files have been modified, it can take many hours to get them straightened out. If key files have been irreparably corrupted, a backup may need to be restored (if there’s no backup, well, I won’t even go there). And depending on how old the backup is, some files may be permanently lost requiring the data be reconstructed. Now, add to any of those ugly, time-consuming outcomes the loss/theft of sensitive information like passwords and bank account numbers, etc., and the amount of time it would take to recover and get life back to normal would be significant to say the least.
Those were the thoughts whirling through my head when I was wrestling with a Trojan virus last Friday. It occurred to me that in addition to the hard costs involved with these sinister concoctions, the amount of time wasted every day dealing with malware in all its forms across the globe must be massive.
Malware Trends Worldwide
According to Symantec, “Malicious code is more rampant than ever. In 2009, Symantec identified more than 240 million distinct new malicious programs, a 100 percent increase over 2008. (Source: Symantec Corporation)
In their Microsoft Security Intelligence Report (SIR), Vol. 8 (July through December 2009) Microsoft shared key findings including this list of the top 15 locations around the world with the most computers cleaned by Microsoft desktop anti-malware products.
Top 15 locations with the most computers cleaned by
Microsoft desktop anti-malware products
(Source: Microsoft SIR)
Dozens of anti-malware software providers exist today. The above stats represent only 2 of them. For added perspective on the size of the problem, consider this. In 2004, a company called Malwarebytes was founded. Five years later, they claimed to have removed over a billion infections from systems worldwide (Source: Malwarebytes CEO via Malwarebytes forum). By June, 2010, they reported that their anti-malware product had successfully removed more than 3.6 billion objects worldwide (Source: Malwarebytes.com).
The bottom line is, I think it’s fair to say the insidious problem of time-robbing, money-stealing malicious software is in fact massive and will only get worse. Stay protected.