Security is everyone’s domain

In the first half of 2008, Microsoft Corp. released its latest Security Intelligence Report. One of the most interesting statistics involved the results from Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT). Each second Tuesday of every month, the tool examines hundreds of millions of unique computers worldwide and looks for the most common families of malware. It found one infection for every 123 machines it touched.

In the last few years, we’ve all heard similar numbers and reports, not just from Microsoft but other security vendors as well. But what is really behind those numbers?

Each piece of malware in those statistics is a piece of code, a set of instructions that when executed results in a lot of grief for Internet users. The statistics are always interesting, but the real problem is the effect of the malware: the loss of personal data, the fraudulent use of a stolen identity, the lack of confidentiality and integrity of some systems. As the Internet evolves to make our lives easier and bring our world closer, so does the creativity of the attackers.

Security is everyone’s domain

The worldwide presence of malware based on data from Microsoft’s malicious software removal tool

Every year, I continue to be amazed at how the threats evolve. For each move that we, the industry, take in order to safeguard our customers, malware writers adapt by making the attacks more complex, stealthier and increasingly more targeted, combining every available technology. This past May, for example, we responded to a situation where users who had downloaded Apple’s Safari Web browser for Windows were exposed to the possibility of code being executed remotely on their PC without prompting. This didn’t happen because of how Safari or Windows worked by themselves; rather, it was how the technologies worked together to create a complex and blended threat.

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