The rise in spyware is due to a significant increase in the instance of Virtumundo, also known as Virtumonde or Vundo, which is an ever-changing type of spyware/adware that causes pop-up advertisements and can modify an infected user's Google search results, Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs told SCMagazineUS.com Tuesday.
Virtumundo, which has been around for years, started becoming more active in December and January, he said.
But the threat is mitigated because to spread, it leverages Microsoft security vulnerabilities in a user's computer, Corrons said. Users are protected from this threat if they have applied the updates, but many have not.
During the first quarter, Virtumundo was the most frequently detected type of malware, according to the report. Because of the threat, spyware increased 10 percent overall -- from 2.5 percent of all malware detected by PandaLabs in the forth quarter of 2008, to 13.15 percent in the first quarter.
Ken Dunham, director of global response at iSIGHT Partners, told SCMagazineUS.com that Virtumundo is classified as a trojan, adware, spyware and/or a worm, depending on who one asks, but what really matters is that this threat is being updated to be more effective while continuing to survive and spread.
“I expect to see a lot more Virtumundo going forward,” Dunham said.
In March, researchers discovered new variants of Virtumundo were spreading through a new vector. Sophos experts said Virtumundo is now a worm infecting computers via AutoRun, a Windows feature that enables files or programs to run immediately as soon as a removable media device, such as a USB stick or CD-ROM, is connected to a computer.
The criminals behind Virtumundo also have recently added new functionality to hide from anti-virus vendors in an effort to infect users even if they have AV installed, Corrons said.
“The guys behind it release new versions every day and use some advanced rootkit techniques to avoid detection of AV,” Corrons said.