http://www.digitaljournal.com/technology/pc-users-given-a-break-from-malware-as-infections-slump-to-a-low/article/469753

PC users given a break from malware as infections slump to a low

Posted Jul 11, 2016 by James Walker
A report has found the number of malware infections this year has fallen significantly since 2015. It could suggest that people have become more vigilant about security in the wake of large cyber-attacks, or indicate a larger decline in cyber-crime.
File Photo: A man attends a hacking challenge in Paris.
File Photo: A man attends a hacking challenge in Paris.
Thomas Samson, AFP/File
As Neowin reports, developers Enigma Software assessed over 30 million malware infections in the past 18 months to calculate the average number of infections each month. It found that there were 47.3 percent less successful infections in the first six months of 2016 than the average number across all of 2015. June 2016 had the lowest infections of any month dating all the way back to April 2013.
The figures appear to spell good news for computer users. The firm warned that people shouldn't be complacent though. It advised people stay alert to online threats as the dangers of successful infections are "still very real."
In particular, ransomware is continuing to rise at an alarming rate. Despite the sharp fall in the number of overall infections, ransomware attacks have actually risen since 2015. Enigma found there has been a 7.92 percent monthly increase.
Ransomware remains a relatively small attack vector but it is growing very quickly. 2016 represents a 119 percent spike over last year, suggesting malware creators are diverting their attention to creating new forms of ransomware. The specialist malware encrypts all the personal data on a user's computer and then demands a ransom to restore the files.
Usage of ransomware has fallen slightly over the past few months. Enigma said that a string of arrests of Russian malware creators this spring may have triggered a slight reprieve, causing a brief disruption in the distribution of the software. It expects the number of infections to increase again soon.
Across all the kinds of malware, the substantial decline in overall infections indicates that people are becoming more security conscious. Recent high-profile cyber-attacks and the push from security experts to adopt practices like two-factor authentication have helped users to improve their own protection online. Enigma spokesperson Ryan Gerding said that people have also learnt to identify common malware distribution techniques, such as bundled downloads with software, suspicious adware and browser toolbars.
"We believe consumers have become more aware of some of the common mistakes that lead to the more common infections such as: adware, potentially unwanted programs, and toolbars," Gerding said. "Each of these types of infections are commonly bundled into other software when computer users download software. We think a growing number of people have become more aware of this practice and are more wary of accidentally installing unwanted software."
The lull in attacks is unlikely to last for long. A dip in infections will trigger malware creators to further improve their infections, adding new mechanisms to reach more users.
Ransomware is likely to have its own resurgence once the distribution chain has recovered from the Russian crack-down earlier this year. Each new iteration brings with it stronger encryption that is more difficult to reverse without the master decryption key, forcing people to hand over cash to retrieve their valuable data.