Virus and worm activity spikes

Despite a lack of global outbreaks, AV vendor warns of huge onslaught of malicious code, mostly variants of other worms and viruses.

Despite the lack of a major worldwide outbreak, malicious code has increased 278% in the last quarter compared with a year ago, an antivirus vendor reported today.

Glendale, Calif.-based Panda Software said that despite a lack of "global epidemics," there is still a very high possibility of a computer being infected by malicious code. The company said the spike was fueled by virus writers launching numerous variants to increase the likelihood and rate of infection.

One such example is the Mytob worm, which at last count by Panda,

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had 74 variants to its credit since it first began circulating in February. Panda also cited the Kelvir worm with 25 variants, the Bropia worm with 36 variants, as well as Bagle and Mydoom whose variants have increased by 35 and 32 respectively just since January. Bagle, Mydoom and the Netsky worm first began circulating early last year.

Panda said the strategy of releasing vast numbers of variants on the heels of others can defeat the routine defense of daily antivirus updates by providing a window of opportunity for variants whose signatures may not yet be detected.

"Until now, daily updates were considered sufficient for keeping a computer protected from new viruses, and it is exactly this belief that the creators of malicious code are now looking to exploit," Luis Corrons, director of PandaLabs, said in a statement. "If they can launch many variants of a malicious code, those that appear after the user has incorporated the new vaccines to their antimalware [products] will have no less than 24 hours to infiltrate the system before the following update."

The Panda report runs counter to two earlier threat reports by other AV vendors showing viruses are not longer the biggest threat to networks, bots are.

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