Companies were getting hit on average with "unknown malware" around 53 times a day in 2013, according to Check Point's annual analysis of threat data collected from about a thousand enterprise customers. Check Point defines 'unknown malware" as malicious code that exploits a known vulnerability or weakness, but can't be detected at the time of its discovery by up-to-date anti-virus or intrusion-prevention systems.
"The window of effectiveness for an unknown malware is often only 2 to 3 days, because its existence in the wild give antivirus vendors time to detect it on their global networks and build signatures for it," Check Point states in its annual security report out today.
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Check Point says it distinguishes "unknown malware" from "zero-day malware" in that zero-days exploit unknown and unreported vulnerabilities for which there is no patch while "unknown malware" strikes at known vulnerabilities.
Check Point's Security Report 2014 says unknown malware appears to be growing because attackers are automating its creation and then targeting organizations around the world, typically for financial gain.
The analysis of data Check Point has from 2013 indicates most of the unknown malware was delivered to targeted customers via e-mail, typically embedded in attachments but was detected in Check Point's sandboxing technology, including its threat-emulation sensors. The data was gathered between June and December of last year.
About 35 percent of the time, the unknown malware was embedded in PDFs to target unpatched versions of Adobe Readers, 33 percent of the time in EXE formats, 27 percent in archive formats, mostly ZIP, and 5 percent was Microsoft Office, with Word being the most prevalent.
The Global Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), an international organization that tracks e-mail phishing trends globally, this week published its global phishing trend statistics for the last half of 2013. The APWG said phishing had especially exploded in China.
"Chinese phishers were responsible for 85 percent of the domain names that were registered for phishing," the APWG states in this report. Chinese phishers seem to be mainly intent on victimizing the growing online population in the country. APWG says it identified 22,831 domain names believed to be registered maliciously by phishers. "This is the highest number of malicious domain registrations we have ever counted in any of our semi-annual surveys, which stretch back seven years to 2007," the APWG notes.
Across Check Point's own sampling, one-third of the 996 companies that Check Point supports through its security tools downloaded at least one infected file or unknown malware, Check Point states.