New desktop malware declines for the first time in years

After a multi-year malware explosion, it appears the pace of new malware samples is slowing down

German antivirus testing outfit AV-Test has tracked “only” around 100 million new pieces of malware as of 22 September, 2016, bringing its database to a total of 572 million malicious programs created since 1985 when it began counting new samples.

For a look at what malware of that era looked like, you can take a tour through the Internet Archive’s Malware Museum.

So far this year new malicious programs are appearing at a rate of 385,000 a day, slightly down on average daily a rate of 392,000 in 2014 and 394,000 in 2015. The records include malware, trojans, viruses and worms for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

This is not the first time the average rates of new malware growth have fallen, but it is the first time since those rates hit around 500,000 per month.

Despite this year’s apparent slowdown, about twice as much new malware is discovered each month now than there was in a full year year back in 2007 when it reached 5.9 million.

According to AV-Test’s data, since about 2006 the total number of new malware has been rising about 2 million to 3 million a year. Then, in 2012, the annual total jumped to 34 million from the prior year’s total of 18 million. From there it more than doubled to 83 million in 2013, before reaching 143 million in both 2014 and 2015.

AV-Test doesn’t offer an explanation for why the rate of growth appears to be slowing, however it does follow several years of depressed desktop sales during which time smartphone sales have skyrocketed.

AV-Test notes that new malicious Android apps have “increased significantly”, though the numbers are still drastically lower than for desktop malware.

The company currently counts 16.5 million of malicious Android apps in its records going back to 2011, of which more than 2.5 million were generated in just two months this year.

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