A study found hundreds of new cyberthreats being discovered on a minute-to-minute basis and the number of global malware threats are up by more than 20 percent in the first quarter of 2017.
Cybersecurity firm McAfee issued its monthly Threats Report for June. It found there are four new cyberthreats identified every second — 244 every minute. It also saw huge increases in malware infections on all devices, with mobile devices and Apple’s macOS being particular targets of interest.
McAfee saw an increase of 22 percent in malware infection rates worldwide. Malware for mobile outpaced the average device, with an increase of 57 percent globally in the first quarter. Much of that growth was driven by infection rates in Asia where mobile malware doubled in the first three months of the year.
The increase continues the upward trend of mobile malware, which McAfee reported grew by 79 percent year-over-year. There are more than 16.7 million samples of mobile malware in the wild — much of which targeted Android devices, in some cases managing to bypass the security scans put in place in the Google Play Store.
Malware for Apple mobile devices running its iOS operating system are still considerably fewer than those for Android, but MacOS — the operating system for Apple's desktop and laptop devices — has been targeted with more regularity.
Total MacOS malware rates samples grew by more than half — 53 percent — during the start of 2017. The growth is primarily driven by adware attacks, which often attempt to generate income for the attackers by displaying or clicking on malicious advertisements.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, ransomware has also seen a significant increase since the start of 2017, though not for the reasons expected. While the WannaCry ransomware dominated headlines after it infected hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of machines worldwide, the attack happened in May, which would place it in the second quarter of 2017.
In the first quarter of the year, it was the Congur-Android OS attack that helped push ransomware incidents.
Researchers at security firm Avira said the Congur-Android OS ransomware attack typically steals personal and account information while attempting to gain access to device functions and send text messages in attempts to spread the malicious software. The attack also encrypts files on the device and requires the user pay a ransom to unlock the device.
Even without accounting for the spread of WannaCry, ransomware has been growing exponentially in recent years. McAfee reports that in just the last four quarters, it has logged 9.6 million samples of ransomware — a 59 percent increase since the same time last year.
Playing a large part in the increased spread of malware and other attacks is the development of new and novel methods of spreading the malicious software.
McAfee noted increased incidents of steganographic malware, which involves embedding a secret algorithm within an image. The algorithm is undetectable by the human eye and difficult to identify for most security tools. Once the infected image is on the victim’s machine, a piece of malicious software is able to extract the information coded into the image to carry out the attack.
The development of new attack methods, as well as the focus on vulnerable machines previously believed by the average consumer to be safer than commonly targeted Windows devices, highlights the necessity for individuals and organizations to use antivirus tools and other security protections to counteract the ever-evolving threat landscape.