PandaLabs has reported that in 2015 it recorded more than 84 million new malware samples. To put that in perspective if this were people not malware, it would now rank as the 17th most populous country on the planet (source: wikipedia). With more than 230,000 new samples being detected each day only the global birth rate and sale of mobile devices are growing faster and none of these three are set to slow any time yet.
The growth of malware is so aggressive that PandaLabs has said it recorded a new record in cyberattacks around the world. The press release states that there were: “over 304 million malware samples captured as a result of these attacks resulting in the claim that more than a quarter (27.63%) of malware samples ever recorded were created in 2015.”
Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs said: “We predict that the amount of malware created by cybercriminals will continue to grow. We also can’t forget that the creation of millions of Trojans and other threats corresponds to the cybercriminals’ needs to infect as many users as possible in order to get more money”.
Internet of Things a perfect breeding ground
While the PandaLabs 2015 Annual Report looked at a range of issues from corporate breaches to Cryptolocker, it highlighted the Internet of Things (IoT) as a major challenge. Specifically it said:
“The Internet of Things (IoT) has begun to push itself to the forefront, as you will see in this report, as it seems that the security of these devices is relatively poor. During 2015 we saw how specialists even managed to hack cars, to remotely control them.”
Cost a major issue for white goods
One of the main challenges for IoT is cost. When it comes to consumer products such as white goods, companies are installing Internet connectivity because they are told the market is demanding it. However, this is being done at the lowest possible cost with many vendors barely able to absorb the increase in their Bill of Materials (BoM) for the necessary hardware components. This means there is nothing left to write secure software making Internet connected devices an easy target for hackers.
Even those companies that should know better are struggling. Last year saw Samsung warn users not to talk near their voice connected TVs in case hackers intercepted their conversations. A secure channel between the microphone and the voice recognition servers would have been a solution to this but Samsung didn’t implement this.
They are not the only vendor to suffer this problem. Gaming consoles, baby monitors, fridges and a range of other devices are easy to hack, control and use to spy on people or infect other devices. With many Internet enabled white goods now being installed into homes and offices, they offer an ideal backdoor to infect other devices.
Even the industrial side of IoT is struggling to ensure secure access. Many companies are just adding a new server to connect existing devices and it will take decades before large infrastructure companies such as water, power and gas companies replace all of their older generation devices. The risks here are shown by the recent release of known SCADA passwords.
Connected cars a real threat
Another area of concern is connected cars and the hacks that we saw performed in 2015. To some degree these have built on previously known weaknesses that car manufacturers have ignored. The big challenge for the automotive industry is that it cannot simply close its supplier networks and only allow well tested and secure products. The vast amount of after-market parts companies means they have to allow third-party access and that means access to sensitive systems inside cars.
There would also be regulatory issues in locking down access. Regulators have been working to dismantle what they see as protectionist practices by forcing car manufacturers to allow third-party access to repair and maintain vehicles. In doing so it means the technical intricacies of cars internals have to be become accessible. It is relatively easy, therefore, for hackers to exploit both the maintenance and after-party routes to get access to the schematics and code required to build a new generation of hacks.
Trojans still the malware of choice
Trojans still rule the roost when it comes to new malware samples (51.45%) and infections (60.3%). Interestingly, PandaLabs see a decline in the percentage of new trojans as viruses and other software begin to pick-up speed. One area in 2015 that has surged in terms of infection is Potential Unwanted Programs (PUPs).
Not all programs in this space are harmful such as Internet search bars but they all consume resources, slow machines down and the vast majority act as a gateway for other malware. The problem is that these get installed when users download software from the web. They are often offered as additional options that users need to deselect on the download page and this means users must pay more attention when downloading software.
Infection rates still high
Asia and Latin America users are still the most infected by computer malware. China has an infection rate of over 57% which might appear shocking to many but this is a market where a lot of devices are jailbroken and on-board security disabled or at least circumvented. Part of the blame for this has been the use of social media, online gaming, gambling and apps offering vouchers off of products where users are likely to follow links they see without checking or questioning them. As a result it is easy for malware writers to infect large numbers of devices quickly.
Another common infection vector tends to be ‘cracked’ versions of software where the license key protection has been removed. Among the most downloaded pirated software are anti-virus and other security products. The irony of this is lost on many users who think they are getting one over on software companies but instead put themselves in trouble.
9 of the 10 countries with the lowest infection rates are European with Sweden, Norway and Finland recording rates below 21%. The only non-European country in this list is Japan with an infection rate of 25.34%. The penetration of technology into these countries is very high and they are, therefore, mature countries. Interestingly this should make them ideal targets for criminals seeking access to financial data. It certainly seems the message over personal protection is getting across.
The rate with which malware is increasing is enough to worry even the most security conscious user. There is no magic bullet just awareness, education, regular backups and keeping applications patched.
What will worry businesses is that they are reliant on user behaviour. One response would be for companies to not only offer protection for the BYOD devices in use by their workforce but also offer to protect their families as well. While this will see an increase in costs for many companies, the protection benefits will be worth it in the long run.