Researchers at anti-virus vendor F-Secure have noted a 100-percent increase over last year in the amount of malware detected during 2007.
The Helsinki-based vendor revealed that it has seen "cumulative malware detections double" in 2007 to a total of a half-million, an indication that cybercriminals are producing new variants "in bulk."
"We've never seen as many samples arrive to our labs," Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure chief research officer, said in a news release, adding that the company saw no new malware methodologies, but existing techniques "were refined and adapted for much greater effectiveness."
The researchers noted that social engineering was used more frequently to propagate malware, and cybercriminals also relied more often on malware development kits. F-Secure singled out the Storm Worm botnet, spreading since January, as one example of the use of more sophisticated social-engineering techniques.
The Storm botnet employs a unique technical setup, avoiding the use of one vulnerable central control point and using DDoS attacks to retaliate against anti-virus researchers, according to F-Secure.
The vendor noted a steady increase in the number of phishing attacks, and an increased use of man-in-the-middle attacks targeting the customers of banking websites.
Meanwhile, a year-end report from IronPort, a division of Cisco, noted that virus-writers less often used mass-distribution attacks such as Netsky and Bagel during 2007, and more frequently employed botnets. The report also noted that attack durations have decreased significantly.
Spam volume also increased to an average of more than 120 billion unwanted messages per day, a 100-percent spike. Junk email became more focused on growing spam networks, as opposed to selling products, according to IronPort.
"2007 marks a turning point. Just when malware design seemed to have reached a plateau, new attack techniques have burst forth, some so complex – and obviously not the work of novices – they could have only been designed by means of sophisticated research and development," Tom Gillis, IronPort vice president of marketing, said in a news release. "For a time, security controls designed to manage malware were working. But, as a result of this success, the threats they protected against were forced to change. In 2007, many of these threats underwent serious adaptation. Malware went stealth, and its sophistication increased."