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Apple's iOS and Android are new favorite malware victims

Cybercriminals are working on more complex schemes to wage attacks on PCs, laptops, and smartphones. A new report shows that every single device that connects to the Internet is in danger.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

The online world is under siege. Computers, laptops, and mobile devices are increasingly being attacked by worms, viruses, botnets, Trojans, spam, and more.

According to a new report by McAfee (PDF), Malware is multiplying at a faster pace now than any other time in the last four years. There has been a 1.5 million increase in malware over last quarter, along with growth of newer threats, including "ransomware" attacks, thumb drive corrupters, and botnets.

While Windows PCs remain the hardest hit, there's a growing trend of attacks on Apple's Mac devices and Android smartphones.

"Over the last quarter we have seen prime examples of malware that impacted consumers, businesses, and critical infrastructure facilities," senior vice president of McAfee Labs Vincent Weafer said in a statement. "Attacks that we've traditionally seen on PCs are now making their way to other devices. For example, in Q2 we saw Flashback, which targeted Macintosh devices and techniques such as ransomware and drive-by downloads targeting mobile."

Flashback was a nightmare scenario for Mac devotees who were used to believing that their devices were immune to malware. At least 600,000 Macs worldwide were silently infected at the beginning of the year by the Flashback Trojan, which masqueraded as an Adobe Flash browser plug-in. Flashback succeeded in stealing thousands of usernames and passwords. Even though malware is increasing in iOS, it still remains relatively low compared with other operating systems.

Google has been working on tightening up security on its Android mobile OS, but it continues to be a growing favorite for cybercriminals.

"During the past few quarters, we've seen that the Android OS is the most popular target for writers of mobile malware," McAfee's report said. "This quarter was no different; practically all new mobile malware was directed at the Android platform. The mix included SMS-sending malware, mobile botnets, spyware, and destructive Trojans."

According to McAfee, another fad in the cybercrime world includes "ransomware," which erases personal photos and files and can also hold computer data hostage until the owner pays money to set it free. Botnets that send malicious spam are also on the rise, as are thumb drive corrupters, password stealers, and phishing Web sites.

"This report highlights the need for protection on all devices that may be used to access the Internet," Weafer said.