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Huge increase in Windows-targeted stealth malware

Tash Shifrin

Security experts have warned of a 700% rise in reports of rootkits – malware that actively conceals its existence using stealth technology – over the past year.

The most dramatic rise has been in rootkits targeted at Windows systems, security firm McAfee said in a white paper, with the number of Windows-based malware stealth components shooting up by 2,300% between 2001 and 2005.

Over the same period, the number of Linux-based rootkits has fallen to a “negligible number”.

McAfee said the open source environment, online collaboration sites and blogs were “largely to blame for the increased proliferation and complexity of rootkit components”.

It added that malware authors found the Windows platform “an attractive target” because of its huge installed base and the technical challenges it posed.

Rootkits are also becoming more far more sophisticated, the white paper said. Stealth technologies have moved from Trojans to other forms of malware and potentially unwanted programs (PUPs).

The complexity of rootkits had increasing by 400% between 2000 and 2005, but then shot up by 900% over the past year.


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