Malware grows as cyber criminal threat evolves

Cyber criminals are evolving, attacking in multiple languages and working across international borders more than ever, fresh research has revealed.

The data, from the Global Threat Report published by security software vendor McAfee, revealed that malware creators are now working on a multinational basis. They are better equipped to deal with cultural differences between users of different nationalities and so it was easier for them to target places such as social engineering websites.

"This isn't malware for the masses anymore," said Jeff Green, senior vice president at McAfee Avert Labs. "Cyber crooks have become extremely deft at the nuances of the local regions and creating malware specific to each country. They're not skilled just at computer programming - they're skilled at psychology and linguistics too."

Social networking, peer-to peer platforms and region-specific software are being targeted more than ever. The report said that from 2006 to 2007 malware had grown by 246 per cent.

"It's mind boggling how sophisticated some of these attacks are. Cyber criminals are learning to exploit the cultural uniqueness of computer users around the world," said another Avert Labs vice president, Joe Telafici.

The report also states that malware writers are being recruited in places with good levels of education and high unemployment such as Russia and China, with criminals taking advantage of countries where the law wasn't being enforced properly. Because of this, malware attacks are usually financially motivated rather than being attacks of vandalism.

"Malware has become more regional in nature during the last couple of years," said Green. "This trend is further evidence that today's cyber attacks are targeted and driven by a financial motive, instead of the glory and notoriety of yesterday's cyber graffiti and fast-spreading worms."