While reports of new malware attacks happen every day, the number of new malware samples detected in the wild over the course of the last year actually decreased, according to a recent report.
A decline in the amount of malware strains may sound like an improvement, but the data—shared in the annual AV-Test Security Report published by the IT-Security Institute—isn’t all good news. The malware that does persist is more sophisticated than ever.
The AV-Test data counted 127.5 million malware samples in 2016, nearly 12 million fewer than the 144 million samples discovered over the course of 2015—14 percent decline in year-over-year detection.
Unfortunately, that drop off was coming down from a previous record-high figure for malware detection. Even with the 14 percent decline, 2016 was still the second-highest year on record for discovery of new malware samples. 2015 remains the worst year on record, when new samples nearly doubled from the year prior.
2016 still saw 350,000 new malware samples arrive every day, working out to about four new samples per second. The report also estimates there are more than 640 million strains of malware in the wild.
While malware as a whole saw a slight decline in 2016, malware targeting MacOS went through the roof over the course of the year. The AV-Test identified a 370 percent spike in new malware for Apple’s operating system, most of which were trojan-style attacks.
That increase for MacOS is massive, but it’s starting from a much smaller base. In 2015, there were 819 different malware threats for MacOS users. In 2016, it jumped to 3,033—still a tiny fraction of the total number of threats for other operating systems, particularly Windows.
Android users also saw their risk profile increase in 2016 thanks to a sizable spike in the amount of malware targeting the mobile operating system. The report saw Android malware double in 2016 to more than four million total instances of malware.
Windows users were still the primary marks of malware, with malicious software for versions of Microsoft’s operating systems making up just short of 70 percent of all samples discovered in 2016.
Interestingly, despite the headline-grabbing attacks including WannaCry and Petya —both of which hit hundreds of thousands of machines around the world—ransomware made up a very small percentage of total attacks in the past year.
Less than one percent of the total share of Windows malware discovered in 2016 was ransomware, the report found. However, those attacks did a significant amount of damage, particularly when targeted at businesses and organizations that could be held hostage in a way that disrupts day-to-day operation.
While malware development declined in 2016, it appears 2017 might be follow the same trend. The early findings from the AV-Test report of the first quarter of the year saw 48 million new samples of malware—a pace that would produce a record-setting total of 192 million samples for the year.