THE AMOUNT OF MALWARE infecting machines in 2013 was equal to around 10 infections for every person on the planet, Dell's Sonicwall threat research team has found.
In its annual report, Dell's Sonicwall Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Network uncovered 78 billion global hits of post-infection malware activity last year.
Dell Sonicwall also collected 20.1 million unique malware samples during the same time, up four million from 2012.
South Korea, El Salvador and Egypt were the top three countries in the global malware attack distribution, Dell Sonicwall said, outlining malware attacks per 1,000 firewalls by country.
The evolution of Bitcoin malware was also a focus of the report, which said that as Bitcoin gained popularity and value, cybercriminals set out to obtain the digital currency through malicious activities.
"In late 2013, Sonicwall researchers observed an increase in Bitcoin mining botnets, which were designed to hijack computing power to mine for Bitcoins with zero hardware or energy expenses to the criminal operation," the report said. "We expect this trend to continue well into 2014 as long as the value of Bitcoin remains high."
The report also recognised new targeting of Windows XP as one of the top 15 affected products in 2013.
"[Windows XP] will continue to realise a surge of attacks as its support life cycle is ending in 2014," Dell Sonicwall said. "Organisations that do not migrate to a newer version of Windows and continue to use Windows XP are especially vulnerable without Microsoft support and patching. Researchers also expect to see exploits targeting Windows 7/8 to increase in 2014."
Dell also reported 14 zero-day vulnerabilities in 2013, with browser based attacks leading the list and Java being the number one targeted application, followed closely by Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash Player. Other notable zero-day attacks targeted Adobe Reader and the Windows operating system.
Dell's GRID Network report said that for the first time in 2013 Sonicwall threat researchers saw cybercriminals begin to deploy more robust ransomware "that leverages asymmetric-key encryption to encrypt critical data on infected machines".
The researchers found a new cryptolocker Trojan that, unlike traditional ransomware, leaves system access intact but encrypts various documents and executables found on the infected system. µ