Malware authors are shifting their production efforts towards cranking out more Trojans and spyware programs instead of more traditional computer viruses.
Last year witnessed a 213 per cent growth in spyware, invasive programs that either spy on users' surfing habits or steal sensitive information, and a 142 per cent growth in Trojans, according to a study by Israeli firm Aladdin. It reckons spyware numbers grew from 1,083 in 2004 to 3,389 in 2005 while Trojan classifications rose from 1,455 in 2004 to 3,521 in 2005.
In contrast, viruses, email worms and other miscellaneous threats grew by only 56 per cent from 6,222 in 2004 to 9,713 in 2005, Aladdin reports. An earlier September 2005 study by Aladdin, based on a two-month analysis of the top 2,000 known spyware threats, concluded that 15 per cent of spyware threats actually steal passwords and log keystrokes.
"The swelling amount of spyware is a direct representation of the fast-growing network of organized criminals that empower themselves through computers rather than physical theft," said Shimon Gruper, vice president of technologies for the Aladdin eSafe Business Unit.
"We continue to see a tremendous upswing in spyware and extremely vicious Trojans... Electronic threats are becoming much less of a game and more of a concentrated effort designed to steal identities and data." ®