The rise of polymorphic malware

97% of malware is unique to a specific endpoint, rendering signature-based security virtually useless.

The data collected by Webroot throughout 2015 shows that today’s threats are truly global and highly dynamic. Many attacks are staged, delivered, and terminated within a matter of hours, or even minutes, having harvested user credentials and other sensitive information. Countering these threats requires an innovative approach to attack detection that leverages advanced techniques and up-to-the-second threat intelligence.

polymorphic malware

Key findings from the Webroot 2016 Threat Brief include:

  • There’s been a surge in polymorphic malware, with 97% of malware morphing to become unique to a specific endpoint device. By changing attributes to evade detection, polymorphic threats pose a major problem for traditional, signature-based security approaches, which often fail to discover singular variants.
  • Approximately 50 percent of Webroot users experienced a first contact with a zero-day phishing site, as compared to approximately 30 percent in 2014. This data indicates that zero-day phishing attacks are becoming the hacker’s choice for stealing identities.
  • Technology companies, including Google, Apple and Facebook, were targeted by more than twice as many phishing sites as financial institutions, such as PayPal, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. These tech companies are targeted because the same login credentials are often used to access many other websites, resulting in multiple compromised accounts with each phishing victim.
  • 100,000 net new malicious IP addresses were created per day in 2015, a significant increase from the 2014 average of 85,000 a day indicating cybercriminals rely less on the same list of IPs, and are expanding to new IPs to avoid detection.
  • The U.S. continues to have the most malicious IP addresses of all countries. In 2015, it accounted for over 40 percent of all malicious IP addresses, a significant increase from 31 percent of malicious addresses in 2014. Top countries hosting 75 percent of malicious IPs include the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, and the UK.
  • As with malicious IP addresses, malicious URLs are largely hosted in the U.S. (30 percent), followed by China (11 percent). Furthermore, the U.S. is by far the largest host of phishing sites, with 56 percent of sites within its borders.
  • In the second half of 2015, 52 percent of new and updated apps were unwanted or malicious—a significant increase over the first half of 2014, when only 21 percent were unwanted or malicious.

polymorphic malware

“2015 was yet another record year for cybercrime, during which more malware, malicious IPs, websites, and mobile apps were discovered than in any previous year,” said Hal Lonas, CTO at Webroot. “It comes as no surprise to those of us in the Internet security industry that the cybercrime ecosystem continues to thrive, given new innovations and little in the way of risk for those who choose to participate. The continued onslaught of hacks, breaches, and social engineering scams targeting individuals, businesses, and government agencies alike has caused many in the security field to ask if it’s truly possible to defend against a persistent attacker. We conclude that we can only succeed by being more innovative than our criminal opponents.”