Most of the rise in cybercrime can be linked to data-stealing malware, and trojans are the fastest growing category, according to a report released Monday by Trend Micro.
For example, in 2007, 52 percent of data-stealing malware were trojans; in 2008, that number increased to 87 percent, according to the report, titled Focus Report: Data Stealing Malware.
As of the first quarter of 2009, 93 percent of data-stealing malware were trojans.
In addition, trojans and trojan spyware are the predominant type of data-stealing malware in every region monitored by TrendLabs, Trend Micro's research arm, which includes Australia, Asia, Africa, South America, North America and Europe.
“Virtually anyone with a computer and internet access can wreak havoc,” said Paul Ferguson, senior threat researcher at TrendLabs, in a statement.
The data-stealing malware problem strikes small-to-medium businesses particularly hard, Ferguson said.
“Smaller organizations have a limited IT budget and few IT staff so they hire a third party to build a web site,” he said. “Over time, the site fails to be maintained or upgraded, exposing vulnerabilities.”
One of the most damaging aspects of cybercrime has been the huge hit on consumer confidence, which is especially damaging in today's economy, Ferguson said.
“At a time when the economy could benefit most from consumer confidence, unchecked online criminal activity is causing many consumers to turn away from using the internet,” he said.
The criminal underground seems to mushroom on itself, Ferguson said. Cybercriminals steal online banking credentials, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers and passwords from compromised networks and PCs, then cycle the stolen data back into the cybercrime economy, fueling an underground financial system driven by criminal networks that traverse geopolitical boundaries.