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Microsoft: Malicious Malware up 43% in 2008

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Authored by Jon Mercer in Computer Software 
Published on 11-17-2008

According to Microsoft, the instances of malware programs that can essentially hijack home computers has risen sharply this year. Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center reports that the amount of unwanted spyware, trojans and other malicious applications found on users computers rose by 43% in the first six months of 2008.

The new statistics come from Microsoft’s annual security intelligence report, as reported on InformationWeek.com. Of particular concern was the rise in so-called Trojan downloader’s and other spyware packages that infiltrate the user’s computer. The Microsoft report notes that most malware is motivated by greed, but there are also Trojans and viruses that are simply the result of malicious hackers with nothing better to do.

Apple Mac users often point out with pride that malware and viruses are much more common on PCs. And in fact this is true; but one must also consider that about 90% of all computers worldwide run a Windows operating system, making Windows computers are more obvious target for developers of malicious software.

While there has long been a problem with malware and viruses pertaining to Windows computers, many experts are befuddled as to why these problems seem to be increasing now.

All things considered, Windows operating systems have been updated to close many security holes, and PCs are considered to be safer than ever. So why the sharp upturn in malicious software? The Microsoft security report offers no theories to explain the sharp increase in malware, but many experts say that money is the primary motivating factor.

Creators of malware often seek to gain access to a user’s credit or bank card information. And considering that malicious software is cheap to develop and distribute, it is easy to see how an organized hacker group could make a small fortune from their efforts.

One of the most common malware scams currently making the rounds is the so-called “virus alert” malware. This program imitates a Windows warning message, informing the user (erroneously) that their computer has been infected by a number of viruses. A pop-up window then directs them to a web site where they can download a software fix to correct the problem — after parting with their credit card information, of course.

These types of virus warning trojans are becoming more and more common online, and the programs often mutate and change names at a rapid rate, making it difficult for security programs to keep track.

The best advise to protect your computer from malicious programs is simply to be very careful what you download, and to never open programs delivered as e-mail attachments, even if they are from someone you trust.

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