More than a third of all malware that has ever existed was created by criminal gangs in 2010 alone according to the latest PandaLabs Annual Report.
To be precise, the company found that 34 percent of all existing malware has been concocted by cyber-criminals in the last year, banishing forever the image of the disgruntled geek creating viruses in his bedsit.
It's not all bad news however, there's been a dramatic slow-down in the rate with which threats are growing: since 2003 the number of new threats has been doubling every but in 2010 they only increased by 50 percent.
An unwelcome trend however, has been the rise in social media malware, in particular Facebook and Twitter, although PandaLabs pointed out that there have also been attacks on other sites like LinkedIn or Fotolog. According to PandaLabs, hackers use several techniques to trick users.
These include the hijacking of Facebook's 'Like' button, identify theft to make it appear that messages are being sent by trusted sources, and the distribution of fake apps.
PandaLabs also pointed out that the year has also seen a rise in activist attacks on websites, so-called hacktivist incidents. Most notably, of course, was the co-ordinated response by the 'Anonymous' group in support of Julian Assange of Wikileaks. The DDoS attacks that brought down Mastercard, Visa and PayPal were a reminder of how quickly such attacks could be mobilised.
Another trend is the growing interest in Apple Mac as a hacker target. A few years ago, Mac enthusiasts used to boast about their malware-free machines – that's not the case any more. PandaLabs doesn't put any figures on the spread of Mac malware beyond pointing out that the company's growing market share means that it's become more vulnerable to attacks.
The banking Trojan remains the most widespread of all malware, accounting for some 56 percent according to PandaLabs. However, there's a rise in rogueware or fake antivirus software, a category that didn't even exist five years. PandaLabs said that about 40 percent of all fake antivirus programs were created in 2010. Out of the tottal of 5,651,786 individual examples of fake antivirus programs, of these, 2,285,629 appeared between January and November 2010, said PandaLabs.
The badge of dishonour for the country with the most infected PCs goes to Thailand which has nearly 70,000 infected machines – China and Taiwan are not far behind. The UK does not figure on the list of the worst 20 offenders, although France and Italy do, with about 48,000 infected machines.
Finally, PandaLabs found that Spam has continued to rise alarmingly high levels in 2010 despite the fact that botnets such as Mariposa and Bredolad were taken down. This did mean that the amount of spam dropped from the headline-grabbing figure of 95 percent of all email traffic to the still high figure of 85 percent.
PandaLabs believes that many of the trends of 2010 will continue in 2011, with growing examples of cyber-activism, social media attacks. SEO threats, a growing amount of attacks on mobile phones and tablets and more evidence of a attacks on Macs. In addition, new technologies will also be under threat – we'll see attacks on Windows 7 and more hackers looking to exploit HTML 5.