Attackers using Trojans more than other malware categories

Global cyber threat patterns are a constantly moving target. But there are ways organizations can stay ahead of threats. Beginning in 2006, Microsoft took on systematic study of the ever-shifting security landscape, and we share our latest findings twice each year in our Security Intelligence Report (SIR).

While cyber threats grow more sophisticated, our goal is simple: to help customers understand the many different types of factors that can influence malware infection rates in different parts of the world. We do this because we believe knowledge is power, and our work to partner with policymakers and IT professionals to help keep them apprised of malware trends can help make not only specific regions but also the world safer for people, business, and governments.

To help you prioritize mitigations, including training people to identify cyber threats, we believe the place to start is to understand the current threats your organization is most likely to experience. Currently, that means understanding the growing risk presented by a malware category known as Trojans.

Trojan exploits proliferated in 2015

Trojans, like worms and viruses, are among the most widespread categories of threats Microsoft detects. Between the second and third quarters of 2015, our research and analysis showed that encounters involving Trojans increased by fifty-seven percent and stayed elevated through the end of the year.

Trojans increased more rapidly than other significant malware categories in 2015.

Trojans increased more rapidly than other significant malware categories in 2015.

In the second half of 2015, Trojans accounted for five of the top ten malware families encountered by Microsoft real-time antimalware products. The increase was due in large part to Trojans known as Win32/Peals, Win32/Skeeyah, Win32/Colisi, and Win32/Dynamer. In addition, a pair of newly detected Trojans, Win32/Dorv and Win32/Spursint, helped account for the elevated threat level.

Server platforms at greater risk from Trojans

Overall, unwanted software was encountered significantly more often on client platforms than on server platforms. However, Trojans were used against server platforms slightly more than they were used against client platforms.

During the course of 2015, our data analysis uncovered the following:

  • During the fourth quarter of 2015, Trojans accounted for three of the top ten malware and unwanted software families most commonly encountered on supported Windows client platforms
  • Also during the fourth quarter of 2015, 4 of the top 10 malware and unwanted software families most commonly encountered on supported Windows server platforms were categorized as Trojans

As these examples suggest, malware doesn’t affect all platforms equally. The reasons for this vary. For instance, some exploits may have no effect on some operating system versions. In addition, in areas where specific platforms are more or less popular than elsewhere, some types of threats are just more common. In some cases, simple random variation may cause differences between platforms.

How Trojans work

Like the famous Trojan horse in Homer’s Odyssey, software Trojans hide inside something end users want, such as a work file or social media video. Through this type of social engineering, attackers get people to install malware on their system or lower security settings.

Two common Trojans work as follows:

  • Backdoor Trojans provide attackers with remote unauthorized access to and control of infected computers
  • Downloaders/droppers are Trojans that install other malicious files to a computer they have infected, either by downloading them from a remote computer or by obtaining them directly from copies contained in their own code

Mitigating the Trojan threat

Armed with knowledge about the ways top Trojans in your area of the world work can help give you the upper hand when it comes to protecting your organization. For example, be sure to educate your workforce about common Trojan tricks, such as “clickbait” – fake web headlines with provocative titles – and spoofed emails. In addition, encourage the people in your organization to use personal devices for social media and web surfing instead of using devices connected to your corporate network.

To understand security threats in your region or view the current or previous editions of the SIR, visit www.microsoft.com/security/sir.  To learn more about Security at Microsoft, visit us at Microsoft Secure.

from Microsoft Secure Blog Staff

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