A quarter of US PCs infected with malware

June 2, 2008 – 10:27 AM

An OECD study into online crime says that increased activity by cyber criminals has left an estimated one-in-four US computers infected with malware.

The report, entitled Malicious Software (malware): a Security Threat to the Internet Economy, gives an impression of two worlds engaged in an uneven war of virus invasion and belated defence.

Cyber crime, to steal data, spy and attack government and business computer systems “is a potentially serious threat to the internet economy,” the study, published on Friday, warns.

Organisations involved in “fighting malware offer essentially a fragmented local response to a global threat,” the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says.

“Over the last 20 years, malware has evolved from occasional ‘exploits’ to a global multi-million-dollar criminal industry … Cyber criminals are becoming wealthier and therefore have more financial power to create larger engines of destruction.”

“It is estimated that 59 million users in the US have spyware or other types of malware on their computers,” the OECD report said.

According to Nielsen/Netratings, the US internet population stood at an estimated 216 million at the end of 2007.

In the last five years there has been a upsurge in such criminal activity to attack systems and steal information, money and identities.

Using agents with names ranging from “zombies” and “worms” to “botnets,” “Trojan horses” or “money mules,” criminals can wreak havoc, usurping identities, recruiting and organising cohorts of computers for coordinated attacks, and even steal data for ransom.

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