Spyware hits new high

Spyware is increasingly becoming the hacker's favorite weapon, despite efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere to legislate against it.

According to new research from Webroot, the amount of spyware on desktop machines has reached an all-time high, with most of it originating in the U.S.

The State of Spyware report found that the U.S. is home to 25,385 malware sites, with Poland in second place with 8,822, and the Netherlands with 4,310. The amount of spyware per enterprise desktop has increased to an average of 27 per machine, up from 22.7 in the first quarter of this year, a 19 percent increase in three months.

The majority of spyware developers in the U.S. are former spammers and virus writers looking for a quick buck, according to Daniel Mothersdale, marketing director of Webroot.

"From their point of view, this is the current cash cow. These people are motivated by profit," he said.

C. David Moll, CEO of Webroot said the research showed that like any business, "spyware developers are committed to increasing their profit margins by expanding their distribution channels, utilizing new products and entering new markets."

The report found that the majority of spyware developers are increasingly turning to encryption to avoid detection and removal. Encryption algorithms and packers such as UPX, Aspack, FSG, or their own proprietary algorithms, have made previous detection techniques obsolete.

But a raft of new state and federal legislation could push spyware writers out of the country. Legislation against spyware is now pending in 19 states and four bills affecting spyware are pending at the federal level.

In Germany, in an amazing act of foresight, the constitution forbids spyware as it violates the constitutional Right of Informational Self-Determination. The state must protect the individual from the use of spyware. Any individual may take legal actions against private entities using such spyware to collect personal data subject to the provisions of the German Constitution.

Mothersdale said legislation will affect where spyware originates but not the level of it. "We'll see things change but developers will only move offshore to avoid the law," he said.

As reported in SC Magazine last month, spyware now accounts for up to eight percent of outbound web traffic, according to a report.

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