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Malware Authors Turn More Insidious

Although there has been no report of massive virus outbreak over many years now, but concern for targeted attacks prevail as also identity theft and dangerous rootkit software, which erases its own traces from the computer.

Initiating research on malware and developing technology that could lessen the severity of security risk that it creates, Microsoft has made significant investments in this area. Microsoft's investments include building a dedicated anti-malware group that would carry on research on malicious software, spyware and other potentially undesirable software as well as maintain the 'Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool' (MSRT) and 'Windows Defender'.

Microsoft's track down of worms, rootkits and viruses over the past 15 months reveal that the amount of malware distribution has dropped to 41. And the 21 variants that have been created have dropped by more than 71%. This shows that the malware problem is improving.

Microsoft couldn't quantify the percentage of PCs infected by malicious software. But according to malware assessment by Microsoft 5.7 million out of 270 million PCs would translate to 1 in 47 machines. Since the total number of PCs scanned was more than 270 million, it proves that the actual rate of infection was much lower.

Although the viral e-mail traffic has dramatically reduced, malware authors have not stopped in finding other methods of infection. Hackers are abandoning mass mailing viruses and worms using more treacherous Trojan horse attacks targeting smaller kinds of users, spamming out links connecting to malicious websites, and applying efforts to steal money and identities.

Matthew Braverman, a program manager with Microsoft's Anti-Malware team commented that although it is very difficult to get a total picture of everything that the cyber criminals do, but certainly things are getting better. The problem is that hackers' activity is not the only threat. Previously, if users removed rootkit software, it got reinstalled in their machines later when rootkits got combined with Trojan software. This threat is still bigger.

Although malware is on the decline the security firm warn Internet users to keep atop anti-malware guard as malware authors could find even more dangerous methods of infection, in place of mass e-mailing viruses.

Related article: Malware: The Agents Of Cyber-Crime

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