Virus numbers fall but spyware growth more than makes up for it

Summer brings falling virus numbers by the rise of spyware is causing concern at social sites spreading malware

The number of viruses detected since June has fallen significantly but the rise in spyware is outpacing the fall, according to a new report by web security firm ScanSafe.

Virus numbers fell by 14 per cent but incidents of malware went up 19 per cent, with a worrying rise in the number of social networking suites hosting malware. The company estimates that every 1 in 600 personal web pages on sites like MySpace hosts malware, some of it for adult sites.

"Social-networking sites have been newsworthy because of the concern over our children's safety, but beyond unsafe contact with harmful adults, these sites are an emerging and potentially ripe threat vector that can expose children to harmful software," said Eldar Tuvey, co-founder of ScanSafe.

"The presence of adult-oriented adware is disturbing, not only because much of it is inappropriate content for minors but because underage users may not be in a position to consent to installing adware or understand the end-user licence agreement."

But such malware is far more common on social sites rather than those which rely on invitations to join, such as business orientated site LinkedIn. The company found no malware on any LinkedIn pages.

In terms of viruses the statistics show the continuing decline in viruses designed to spread rapidly in favour of Trojans that harvest data or allow remote control of the computer. Eight out of the top ten viruses detected were Trojans.

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