(Source: Symantec)
A new research report indicates the malware threat is increasing

Malicious code aimed at stealing personal information has grown at a record pace, Symantec said in its latest security report.

"The report noted that Web surfing remained the primary source of new infections in 2008, and that attackers are relying more and more on customized malicious code toolkits to develop and distribute their threats," Symantec said in a press statement.  "Furthermore, 90 percent of all threats detected by Symantec during the study period attempt to steal confidential information.  Threats with a keystroke-logging capability -- which can be used to steal information such as online bank account credentials -- made up 76 percent of threats to confidential information, up from 72 percent in 2007."

As the number of cyber threats continues to grow, spammers are becoming more skilled at creating ways to steal personal information.  The majority of web-based attacks are aimed at legitimate web sites that spammers have hijacked, which is then used to distribute malicious content to each visitor of the site.

Spammers have been greatly aided by the number of web sites and blogs created by non-professionals, which often times are poorly defended against even the most basic vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited.

There is still an extremely high demand for stolen personal data, which is only growing now that the global economy continues to struggle.  Symantec discovered the current supply for stolen information is continually growing, with stolen credit card numbers available for 6 cents per stolen number -- up to $30 per stolen number for orders with less stolen credit information.

Microsoft's latest security report also described an increase in "scareware," which is an internet scam that tricks innocent computer users into signing up for a promotion that really is a piece of software designed to steal personal information.

Symantec, Microsoft and other software companies are closely watching the number of Internet security issues, as they'll be responsible for drafting different methods to help combat attackers. 

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
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