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The malware numbers game: how many viruses are out there?

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    Night Hawk's Avatar

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    The malware numbers game: how many viruses are out there?

    The malware numbers game: how many viruses are out there?

    By Ed Bott

    April 15, 2012, 6:00pm PDT


    Summary: How many distinct strains of malware are in circulation today? If you said hundreds of thousands or millions, you’re way off. A close look at numbers from one leading security company helps explain why some big numbers don’t tell the whole story.


    How many strains of malware are in circulation right now, for Windows PCs, Android devices, and Macs?


    That seems like a straightforward question, but the answer is far from simple. And the number might be a lot lower than you think.


    If you check with the leading security companies, you might be tempted to pick an answer in the millions. After all, that’s how many listings you’ll find in the definition files for common antivirus programs. At day’s end on April 12, for example, Symantec published the summary shown below, noting that its latest Virus Definitions file contained 17,702,868 separate signatures.





    Oh my. 17.7 million? That certainly sounds like a very big number. But before you get swept away, it’s worth taking a closer look at what it really represents.
    Eight days earlier, on April 4, that same Norton/Symantec definition file contained 17,595,922 separate detections. With 106,946 additional definitions in a mere eight days, you’d probably conclude that malware is out of control.


    Because the Norton brand name is primarily associated with Windows PCs, you’d probably also assume that all of that activity was aimed at the Windows platform.


    And you’d be wrong in both cases.

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    Re: The malware numbers game: how many viruses are out there?

    Well that's good to read. Puts your mind at ease a bit. Only 720 out there.

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    Re: The malware numbers game: how many viruses are out there?

    I wouldn't go specifically by any number since this report is based solely on one company's own data base. The 720 count is wrapped around the Android OS alone. That doesn't reflect totals for Windows and the other OSs however while illustrating how a small number of bugs have gone through some minor changes along the way.

    On one laptop a new variation of a familiar fake ware was evident when the malware writer simply renamed the main bug slightly due to a much newer fake gui tossed into the mix. The coding only saw a slight change in that as well just to slip everything past the existing protections.

    The most clever malwares are even fewer in number bowever from the typical trojan dropper, key logger, or rootkit as well as any other data miner. The actual total counts are off based on repeat counts on the exact same bugs all too often. Not as many as you might think but not counting the total number for all OSs either.

    If in fact you get hit with some old bug that's been floating around the web for a few years you may think it's something new while not. On the other hand wait a bit longer and something new will be coming. It's all those inbetween repeaters that can throw the counts off.

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The malware numbers game: how many viruses are out there?
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