It seems like every year, near the closing of the year, Windows viruses and malware seem to creep up from nowhere. Late 2011 was no exception. Beginning in November, Windows viruses and malware started to appear and we experienced a few get through on Windows 7 64-bit with full Symantec Endpoint Protection running, with users running Internet Explorer. Yep, they slipped right on through multiple layers of protection. Meanwhile others mentioned an increase of other popups and strange behaviour with fake "Windows repair" utilities and such. Needless to say, for those supporting Windows, it made for an ever increasing need for extra time to put out these fires. Things seem to have settled down after the new year.
Recently I came across an article mentioning the Windows malware outbreak within the U.S. Military. Apparently the systems used at ground control for the unmanned aircraft, became infected with some sort form of malware that was found to be stealing credentials (usernames and passwords). The reports claimed that the malware may have been installed with removable storage devices attached to ground control systems. Whatever the case for the malware may be, it is highly embarrassing. Mission critical systems should not see malware. And this is the very reason that the Windows systems were replaced with Linux. There are many followup stories available on the Windows to Linux replacements.
This is also the reason that I've replaced many Windows systems with Linux, not only for myself but many others that I know personally. I use the very same software that I recommend, as I have nothing to hide. When people approach me asking for opinions on new PCs, I explain that they have two choices, Windows or Linux, and that if they choose Windows I give them a firm warning that there can be potential malware that can get installed by simply browsing the web in Internet Explorer, which can result in lost data, broadcasting of confidential information on the PC, and much more. I also mention that there will almost assuredly be more maintenance calls back to me with Windows, which often times results in extra downtime or the computer being unavailable due to malware and other problems. Over the past few years, this trend has already been proven with an almost elimination of my personal supports calls because the users are now on Linux rather than Windows.
I've also started using the built-in PDF reader in GNU/Linux called Evince. It's much faster than Adobe Reader and won't be subject to all of the Adobe Reader vulnerabilities. GNU/Linux also has its own implementation of Java (OpenJDK), and the IcedTea plugin for Firefox that can guard against vulnerabilities within Oracle's Java plugin. However, I still have mixed feelings on IcedTea as some websites do not function with it, so for now we are all still using the Oracle Java plugin. And of course, Adobe Flash which we must continue to use as-is, even though vulnerabilities are mainly targeted at Windows anyway.
Symantec published its annual report outlining data collected in 2010. In this report, Symantec outlined the top malware attacks in 2010, which includes Stuxnet. Another one mentioned is Koobface, which roamed around via social networking sites and attempted to install fake antivirus software. But, further down in the report, it is stated that the volume of web-based attacks per day increased by 93% compared to 2009. Even though the report is careful about mentioning which operating systems were most vulnerable, the main malware titles mentioned all run on Windows.
All of the indications show that malware incidents will continue to be on the rise in 2012 and beyond. Thankfully we've already put up our defenses by migrating away from Windows and over to GNU/Linux.
Additional reading on the trends for Windows malware:
More can be searched for, of course.