Spyware staged a significant counterattack during the first quarter of 2006, according to latest State of Spyware report issued today by Webroot Software, the leading anti–spyware developer. A dramatic rise in the prevalence of adware combined with a significant increase in the most malicious types of Trojans and system monitors resulted in the highest consumer infections rates since the first quarter of 2005.
According to the report, the first quarter of 2006 saw a 15 percentage point jump in the share of consumer PCs infected with spyware: from 72 percent in Q4 2005 to 87 percent in Q1 2006. The average instances of spyware on infected machines increased 18 percent over the previous quarter to an average of 29.5 instances of spyware per infected PC, up from 24.9 instances in Q4 2005. Webroot also witnessed a significant rise in Trojan horse infection rates with an increase to 29 percent, up from 24 percent during the fourth quarter of 2005. The overall incidence of the most prevalent Trojan horse, Trojan–Downloader–Zlob, doubled during the first quarter.
"These alarming figures illustrate that spyware is a problem that Internet users are going to be battling for years to come," said C. David Moll, CEO of Webroot Software. "Spyware has proven itself as more than a simple ‘flash in the pan’ security threat. This is a real threat that is financially motivated and will not stop spreading. It is imperative that users protect themselves with a proven anti–spyware solution that offers superior blocking, deploys frequent updates and protects against the most dangerous types of keyloggers, system monitors and Trojans."
Most surprising – and perhaps most alarming – is the dramatic rise in the prevalence of adware during the last quarter. Despite recent litigation and legislation designed specifically to thwart the efforts of unlawful adware vendors, Webroot recorded that the percentage of PCs with adware increased to 59 percent, up from 45 percent in the last quarter of 2005.
"The significant rise in the prevalence of adware should be received as evidence that adware vendors have found new channels of distribution and new infection methods, in spite of the industry’s best efforts to legitimize the practice," said Moll.
Within the enterprise, the average instances of spyware on infected PCs held steady at 21.5. The consistent number of Trojans may indicate that many enterprises still rely on legacy anti–virus programs or perimeter anti–spyware solutions to protect their networks. Unfortunately, the large economic potential of a spyware–infected enterprise to a spyware developer is driving an innovation cycle that is greatly outpacing these limited defenses.
"Businesses have a serious responsibility to ensure their proprietary assets and employees’ personal information is safeguarded," continued Moll. "Our research shows that the most malicious types of spyware – Trojan horses and system monitors – are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they penetrate and attack networks. Therefore, enterprises and SMBs must be sure they have best–of–best anti–spyware protection before they consider themselves safe."
This latest edition of the State of Spyware report comes on the heels of the release of Webroot’s "Spyware & Small Business", an informative guide developed exclusively for small and medium–sized businesses to educate and inform them on the massive risks spyware poses to their company’s networks and assets. In preparation for this guide, Webroot found that more than 50 percent of SMBs experienced a spyware attack during the first quarter of 2006. Smaller businesses are especially attractive to spyware criminals due to their often limited IT resources and lack of network security. The ramifications of these spyware attacks are particularly disturbing. Sixty–five percent of affected SMBs experienced slowed system performance, 58 percent reported a reduction in employee productivity, 35 percent experienced a negative impact on their bottom line and 20 percent reported a loss in sales.
The State of Spyware report is issued quarterly as an in–depth review and analysis of the impact of spyware, adware and unwanted software on consumers and enterprises. The foundation for much of the analysis and trends reporting comes from Webroot’s consumer and corporate SpyAudit tools and from online research culled by Phileas, Webroot’s automated spyware research system. The SpyAudit tools invite both consumers and enterprises to scan specific PCs and determine spyware infection levels.
The complete State of Spyware Report is available at www.webroot.com/sosreport.