Think You’re Protected? Think Again!

In 1990, when only the government and a number of universities were using the Internet, there were 357 unique pieces of malware. The need for security began with desktop computing when the only means of compromising data was by inserting a contaminated floppy disk into a PC or opening an infected email attachment. That was the anti-virus era.

The need for security evolved with the Internet as more companies developed internal and external networks. That was the network security era.

Now as companies leverage the power of the web, information security has evolved yet again: We are in the application security era. And as big companies get better at locking down their software and protecting their data, criminals are targeting the little guy. Ordinary citizens’ every day digital lives are at risk via infected web pages, instant messaging, phishing, Smartphone viruses, text message scams and now hackers are targeting Macs in a big way.

In the past 20 years, e-commerce and social media have taken over. The numbers behind the explosive growth of cybercrime are astounding. In a little over two decades, we’ve gone from less than 500 pieces of malware to over 55 million annually. Cybercrime has evolved from nothing to a multibillion-dollar industry.

In 1995, 8069 unique pieces of malware were detected. One out of 20 emails were spam, and the Melissa virus infected hundreds of thousands.

In 2000, 56,342 unique pieces of malware were detected, mostly on PCs, but some began spreading to Macs. Then smartphones got the Cabir virus. The “I Love You” worm slithered its way onto millions of PCs, and the MyDoom worm slowed down the entire Internet by 10%, resulting in loses totaling 38 billion dollars.

In 2005, 164,000 unique pieces of malware were detected, including the first virus for Mac OS X and another 83 mobile viruses. 57 million U.S. adults fell for phishing scams via 17,877 different spoof websites. 80% of all email was spam. The Conficker worm, Zeus Trojan, Koobface, Applescript.THT, Storm botnet, and Ikee iPhone virus all made their debuts this year.

By 2010, 54 million unique pieces of malware were spreading to tablets, too. More than 90% of all email was spam. 27% of teens infected their families’ PCs with viruses in 2010. Almost 420,000 phishing sites were discovered. OpinionSpy, Boonana, and MacDefender infected Macs. Hackers commandeered Skype’s instant messaging service to deliver malware. The Gemini and Zitmo Trojans gathered location data and stole financial transaction information.

But if that’s not enough. In 2010, more than three million malicious websites were created, any one of which could infect your computer.

The question is are you protected? Are you using some free download by an unknown company to protect yourself? Or do you have a comprehensive multi layer approach to digital security protecting all your devices?

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)


Check out this video to learn more about: The History of Malware