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Security firms struggle to keep up with malware surge

Year after year brings reports of increased malware attacks, and predictions that the future is destined to see more than ever. Such forecasts aren’t just doom and gloom, but instead based in reality. Over the past two years security experts have witnessed an unprecedented spikes in attacks.

According to AV-Test, an independent security software review group, more than 143 million malware detections were reported in 2014. That’s 72 percent more, according to a recent report, than 2013. Worse, more malware was detected during 2013-2014 than in the previous 10 years altogether. Will this storm of cyber-attacks ever cease?

More malevolent malware

Viruses, worms, malware—what’s the difference? Malware is sort of a catch-all term that includes most types of virulent software, like viruses and worms. As most people are aware, these, and other types of malware, can be designed to perform all kinds of nefarious tasks, from stealing your personal information to shutting down or damaging critical infrastructure. It really depends, of course, on the desire of the hacker.

No matter what it’s designed to do, from the cybercriminal’s perspective, not only can deploying malware on the Internet be lucrative, but nowadays it has become easy and effective. Today’s would-be hackers can purchase (and sometimes download for free) malware code to perform specific tasks. A ne’er-do-well doesn’t need advanced programming experience to spread, infect, steal, and destroy.

According to Timo Hirvonen, senior researcher at F-Secure, “It’s as easy as removing a word or adding a letter to a Microsoft Word document.”

Furthermore, malware isn’t confined to PCs. An ever-increasing number of attacks, according to Patrick Nielsen, a researcher with antivirus program makers, Kaspersky, occur on mobile devices. “Kaspersky saw four times more mobile malware attacks in 2014 than the year before,” Nielson said.

Losing the Battle

One thing that several cybercrime professionals agree on is that today’s malware adapts so efficiently it’s spreading exponentially, and is therefore tougher to stop. In addition, all told, if we include all aspects of cybercrime, including consumers, businesses, and government entities, the damages easily ring up to several billion dollars.

In fact, according to the 2013 Norton Report, the antivirus giant’s annual study examining online behavior—the cost and perils of cybercrime was (as of 2013) up to about $113 billion, or $298 per person on the planet. The countries with the greatest number of victims are Russia (85%), China (77%), and South Africa (73%). The greatest cost of consumer cybercrime is reported in the USA ($38 billion), Europe ($13 billion) and China ($37 billion.)

Keep in mind, though, that last year the above numbers more than doubled (up to about $143 billion). Again, according to the 2013 Norton Report, and a few other sources, much of the future malware attacks will focus on “promiscuous mobile users.”

One thing is certain. Cyberattacks have increased, now more than ever. And it’s also clear that, now more than ever, cybercrime is becoming increasingly more organized. Organized crime, terrorism, aggressive governments—all involved in distributing malware. It seems daunting when you look at from that perspective, and all of this says nothing about the job loss and damage to economy cybercrime is more and more responsible for.

Everything in life to which we assign value—our cars, our homes, our careers, our families—all requires maintenance and protection. Like anything else, taking care of your computer’s security is ultimately up to each individual person or company. The cybercrime threat is huge and it’s not going away soon.