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Thursday, 19 June 2014

Latest Trends in Malware

    Malware is a problem that has been plaguing Windows users for many years, but the latest trends show that Linux and Mac users also need to pay attention to this threat. An increasing number of malware applications are targeting Linux systems, including programs that launch DDoS attacks on servers or collect login details and passwords. Here is a run-down of the top threats that can affect Linux users as well as those running Windows or Mac OS.

Is Your Computer Mining Bitcoin?

    Since the value of the digital currency Bitcoin shot up in early 2013, there has been a growing trend of malware programs that use infected computers to mine coins. In the early days of Bitcoin, users could create their own coins by running a mining program on their own PC. These coins could then be sold or exchanged for goods or services, including illegal goods such as drugs. However, Bitcoin is designed to require more computing power to mine as more of the currency is created. These days, Bitcoin miners require a huge amount of computing power to see any significant returns, and not all of them are prepared to pay for it. Bitcoin mining trojans harness the computers of unsuspecting victims and use them to create coins for the hacker.

Threats Affecting Windows and Mac Users

    As expected, 2013 brought a new range of malware targeted at Windows machines. Among these threats is the botnet Win32.Rmnet.12. Once this program is installed on a victim’s computer, it receives commands from a remote server and can steal passwords and other information entered into web forms. By the end of 2013, more than 25,000 computers a day were joining the ranks of the infected. In total, more than 30 percent of US households are affected by malware, with most of them running Windows operating system.

    Mac users haven’t escaped unscathed either. For several years now, malware targeted at Mac users has been on the rise. During 2012 and 2013, Mac OS X systems were affected by the Backdoor.Flashback.39 trojan, which exploits a Java vulnerability to infect computers. This botnet network is the largest in the world, although infections among Mac users are declining.

Linux Malware Threats

    Linux users are used to sneering at Windows users who are affected by viruses and trojans, but an increasing number of malware applications are now targeting Linux systems. The most notorious recent threat to Linux users is the Hand of Thief trojan, which affects various Linux distributions, including Debian, Fedora and Ubuntu. This trojan sends data entered in web forms to a remote server. It’s very smart at evading detection and does not require admin privileges to do its dirty work.

    Linux systems are also being targeted by trojans that are designed to launch DDoS attacks. By enslaving thousands of Linux machines, these trojans can attack a specific site with a huge traffic surge, causing the server to overload so that the site is no longer available to legitimate users. DDoS attacks can temporarily bring down even major sites, causing a big loss of revenue for the companies affected.

    These latest malware threats should be a wake-up call for Linux users everywhere. Simply running Linux rather than Windows or Mac OS is no longer enough to prevent your system from being targeted by hackers and online criminals. Linux users need to pay closer attention to security, install all security updates promptly and be careful when downloading files and software to avoid being infected with malware.


Roscoe Crowell

Roscoe Crowell writes on computer security/hardware issues. His main area of focus is Windows but he occasionally dabbles in Mac and Linux issues as well.
Twitter: @RoscoeCrowell


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