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1.5M new instances of malware detected, report says

A new study reveals staggering growth in the presence of malware throughout the Web in the last year.

A new study reveals staggering growth in the presence of malware throughout the Web in the last year.

Cyber warfare has ramped up in the last few years as hackers continue to perfect their tradecraft. Now, consumers and companies alike are being targeted by botnets, ransomware and "drive-by downloads." Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are increasingly recognizing the need for managed IT support, as they often do not have the resources to combat these growing threats.

Last week, anti-virus software provider McAfee released its "McAfee Threats Report: Second Quarter." According to this report, the presence of malware on the Web has increased more over the last 12 months than it has at any point in the last four years. Specifically, the company detected 1.5 million new instances of malware since the first quarter of 2011, with net ne'er-do-wells developing fresh methods of attack.

Countless internet sites are being infected with malware that subsequently infect the computers of every user who visits them. But, these drive-by download attacks are now targeting smartphones and tablets too, as more and more users browse the Web on mobile devices.

"Over the last quarter we have seen prime examples of malware that impacted consumers, businesses and critical infrastructure facilities," said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president of McAfee Labs. "Attacks that we've traditionally seen on PCs are now making their way to other devices."

Social media is also being used as a weapon against unsuspecting victims. McAfee reports that botnets are now being used to infiltrate all manner of devices through Twitter, essentially tweeting malicious commands and commandeering computers, smartphones and tablets. As these methods of attack evolve, cyber criminals are embracing the practice of taking control of critical data and ransoming it to companies for millions of dollars – hence the term ransomware.

As cyber warfare targeting companies continues to get more sophisticated, around-the-clock SMB IT support is more important than ever. Today's landscape precludes this being approached as a part-time priority.

Clearly defined policies about social media and general Web use for employees, as well as hacking countermeasures are the best defense against the compromising of business IT assets.