A new breed of malicious software has replaced viruses and worms as the weapon of choice for Internet criminals looking to steal money from unsuspecting netizens according to a study published Wednesday by security firm Sophos.
The report found that during the first half of the number of new worms and viruses emerging on the Internet dropped significantly overshadowed by a new dangerous species of Trojan horse. These Trojans according to Sophos now outnumber other new viruses and worms by a fourtoone margin.
In light of all the new malicious software targeting Windows PCs Sophos recommended in the report that Windows users swap their current systems for a Mac. Making the switch to a Mac the company said will help safeguard against the new breed of attacks.
"Because there are so many poorly protected home computers out there running Windows the hackers haven't had to write Mac versions of their viruses" said Graham Cluely senior technology consultant at Sophos.
Trojans on the Rise
Last month Sophos identified different types of malicious code actively circulating on the Internet representing an increase of more than over June . The bulk of these ne'erdowell programs are written to target Windows users.
"The criminals responsible are obviously making money from their code otherwise they'd give up the game" Cluley said.
During the first six months of Trojans accounted for some percent of new threats. Hackers prefer this type of malicious software Sophos found because it can be targeted at a particular group of people to increase the likelihood of tricking users into handing over information.
Unlike the old days of computer viruses when hackers wrote and released their malware in a quest to grab headlines and impress their peers today's malicious code writers want as little publicity as possible Cluley noted.
"If a virus makes the front page of the New York Times that's bad news for today's hackers" he said. "They don't want users to be aware of what they're up to so they like to infect a smaller group of people and steal from them (identities bank account information and so forth) without them realizing that they have been infected at all."
Choose a Mac
Cluley said that after years of recommending that users take steps to better protect their computers with constantly updating security software it is clear that most users are not listening.
"Every antivirus program on the planet detects the older viruses but clearly some PC home users aren't running any effective antivirus software at all or haven't bothered updating it" Cluley said. "So why not switch to a computer which simply cannot be infected by these threats?"
The Sophos report indicated that the first malicious software targeting Apple's Mac OS X did not emerge until February . The company also found that in contrast to predictions from the SANS Institute and other security companies there has been no deluge of viruses targeting the Mac.
Odds are Cluley predicted that Macs will "continue to be the safer place for computer users" for some time to come.
"There are far far fewer threats on Apple Macs than there are on PCs" he said. "So home users who simply want a computer to do some Web surfing exchange emails take photographs buy music or make movies may find it's a much simpler life from the malware point of view if they used a Mac instead of a PC."