A recent study found computers in Tampa, Orlando and St. Louis are more than five times as likely to be infected with malware as the national average in 2016.
Enigma Software Group researchers compiled data from the firm's SpyHunter platform from the largest 100 cities in the United States to find which had the most malware infections. Denver and Atlanta rounded out the top five with nearly four and three times the national average infection rate, respectively.
Researchers believe the data paints a picture concerning the user habits, as opposed, to where bad guys are targeting. ESG spokesperson Ryan Gerding said threat actors are simply putting the malware out in multiple locations, without specifically targeting one location over another.
While the exact reason for the abundance of malware in a particular city is unclear, researchers speculate there could be a number of factors, such as demographics, PC usage vs Mac or Mobile usage, and even weather.
“Some of our data indicates that older populations may be more susceptible to malware infections,” Gerding said. “We're assuming that's because older populations MAY have a higher PC usage (versus younger folks using mobile devices or Mac computers more).”
However there is no strong and fast rule as Gerding noted that cities with younger populations on the list, such as the college town of Madison, Wisconsin, contradict that theory.
While each case is different, the study said people are often infected via malware bundled with legitimate software, or are installed when computer users click bogus links within spam emails or malicious social media posts.
The most common infections were from a group the researchers labeled “Adware Helpers” or adware, and to a smaller extent ransomware.
Gerding said one of the surprising findings in the report was that infections seemed to be spread more evenly among cities on the list compared to 2015 when there were 28 cities whose infection rates were double the national average whereas last years there were only 14.
“We also noticed that on a year to year basis, infections were steady to slightly lower,” Gerding said.“We believe that's mainly because more PC users are installing the Windows 10 operating system on their computers.
He Windows 10 is equipped with better protections that are keeping a greater number of infections from getting through.
A similar report that covered the period from 2014-2016, found that Houston was home to the most infected computers with 60,801 infected PCs, followed by Chicago, 49,147, and Phoenix, 42,983. Only Denver, 39,711 made it into the top five cities on both list.