Ransomware, Phishing And Spam Attacks Hit New Highs In Q1 2015

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Six trillion spam messages sent worldwide in the first three months of 2015, McAfee Labs report finds

The battle against computer spam and cyber-attacks looks set to continue against both new threats and a range of tried-and-tested methods, according to a report on the latest security activity.

The quarterly McAfee Labs Threats Report, released today by Intel Security, found that over six trillion spam messages were sent across the world in just the first three months of 2015, illustrating the sheer scale of the problem facing computer users across the world.

Overall, McAfee Labs reported seeing 362 attacks every minute – equivalent to six every second.

Held to ransom

Security, hacker © cristovao Shutterstock 2012The report also highlighted the growing threat of ransomware attacks, where hackers gain control of a users’ machine and demand money to release it.

In the first quarter of 2015, McAfee Labs found a 165 percent increase in ransomware, driven largely by new ‘families’ of hacks such as the hard-to-detect CTB-Locker, Teslacrypt, and the emergence of new versions of CryptoWall, TorrentLocker, and BandarChor.

However the biggest growth was seen in attacks affecting Adobe Flash. The report found a 317 percent growth in new Adobe Flash malware as hackers look to target un-patched Adobe Flash vulnerabilities.

The program proved a popular target for many reasons, not least due to its recent surge in popularity as a technology, growing steadily ahead of rivals such as Java and Microsoft Silverlight, which had also proved popular targets for hackers in the past.

McAfee Labs noted that there was often a delay in users applying available Adobe Flash patches, but also said that there was a “steep increase” in the number of mobile devices that can play Adobe Flash files (.swf).

“With the popularity of a product like Flash, there comes a tremendous responsibility to proactively identify and mitigate security issues potentially threatening millions of users,” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president, McAfee Labs.

“This research nicely illustrates how the tech industry works together constructively to gain an advantage in the realm of cybersecurity  – industry partners sharing threat intelligence, and technology providers acting on information quickly to help prevent potential issues.”

However the report was also quick to praise Adobe for its fast response to the flaws, noting that the Adobe Security Team was able to provide patches to all 42 new Adobe Flash vulnerabilities on the same day they were submitted to the National Vulnerability Database

Under threat

Malware, virus, security © Finchen, Shutterstock 2014Elsewhere, the report found that the first quarter of 2015 saw a slight decline in new PC malware, a trend it put down to the quietening down of the notorious SoftPulse adware family. However overall, the McAfee Labs malware “zoo” grew 13 percent from the same point last year, and now contains 400 million samples.

The report also found a major surge in the number of new mobile malware samples, which increased by 49 percent from Q4 2014 to Q1 2015, and a surge in the number of phishing domains detected in the UK.

Overall, 887 phishing domains were discovered in the UK, higher than France (799), the Netherlands (680), Canada (641), Russia (583) and Brazil (452).

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