NOTA BENE

Notes, comment and buzz from Eugene Kaspersky – Official Blog

March 25, 2013
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One in twenty is the sad truth.

In brief.

  • Approximately 5% of home computers around the world are infected. That’s at least 50 million machines.
  • We discovered this from our free Kaspersky Security Scan after analyzing requests to an “antivirus cloud”.
  • We’re only talking about Windows PCs – we don’t know how many infected Macs and Linux machines there are out there.

Now for all the gory details.

So, just how many infected computers are there in the world right now (to within two or three parsecs)? It’s a pertinent question. And that’s just PCs; no Macs (quite a few of which are infected too). And let’s restrict it to just home users. In any case, it’s still interesting to know. What do you need to do to find out that sort of information? Well, a large selection of computers needs to be scanned for malware, and that’s a large selection in terms of geography as well as numbers. The antivirus tool not only needs to be good at catching viruses – it mustn’t conflict with other antivirus programs.

Well, we have just the thing – Kaspersky Security Scan (KSS).

Kaspersky Security Scan

Now for a quick commercial break. 

KSS simply checks files for viruses – it takes each file from the disk, checks it against the signatures in its antivirus database, does all the heuristic checks and passes the file through our cloud services. It’s a nifty little thing that gets on well with other antivirus solutions, i.e., it doesn’t conflict with them.  Find out more here; download it from here.

Commercial break over.

We launched this project fairly recently – about a year ago. The loading and launching of this utility allowed us to collect a lot of statistics – requests to our antivirus cloud where we can see any malware detections. These are the stats that we looked at…and couldn’t believe our eyes. It turned out that even with antivirus programs installed a significant number of computers were infected! Talk about an unexpected discovery!

Just to make sure, we performed several additional checks and carefully filtered the results. We took the latest statistics (from recent launches of KSS). In all there were about 250,000 installations carried out all over the world – predominantly North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, India and South-East Asia. For some reason there were very few checks in Japan, South Korea or China – we’ll investigate why they don’t appear in the sample.

After carefully studying the results we ejected any malware known to be inactive, e.g., infections detected in archives, the recycle bin, quarantine, or damaged files and objects that were just components and not the full malicious program, etc. Basically, we left only those cases when KSS detected active malware at the very heart of the operating system – Windows, Program Files, Documents and Settings folders – in other words, active infections.

The research shows that around 5% of computers are infected, even those with antivirus protection! When there’s no antivirus solution, the situation is even worse – 13% of the scanned machines are infected.

So, what are the absolute numbers?

Various estimates put the number of computers (namely PCs) in the world at 1.5-2 billion. The numbers of Linux and other non-Windows platforms are not very significant and are not counted here. A portion of those computers are in large corporations where the rules governing software usage is very strict – they’re also not taken into account. We end up with statistics for home computers and those from small companies. That’s at least two-thirds of the world’s computers. In all, we’re talking about at least 1 billion machines where a minimum of 5% – one in 20 – is infected. That’s 50 million infected computers. Right at this very moment.

Just take a deep breath and contemplate that. Grab the smelling salts if you feel faint and read on.

So, what conclusions can we reach? Only depressing ones:

Conclusion 1.

Everyone would agree that no protection solution can guarantee a 100% result. But the stark fact that every 20th computer with an installed antivirus solution was the source of infection is too much to bear. Dear colleagues, I appeal to all antivirus vendors – what’s happening? Our much-vaunted cats don’t catch the mice? (The only thing that can console us is that unprotected computers are infected nearly three times more often.)

It’s clear that different antivirus vendors develop products of different quality which provide a different protection level – some better, some worse. The spread of values is from about three to six percent of infections. I will not give any exact numbers and names of vendors not to be accused of anti-advertising and unfair competition. We would love to be able to compare our own results against these figures, but unfortunately we cannot fairly evaluate our quality this way (if a computer is already protected by our product, KSS is unlikely to find anything there).

Conclusion 2.

50 million infections. What a result for the cybercriminals! With so many potential victims even the most inept computer villain has plenty of room for maneuver. Need the botnet to attack a competitor? No problem! Want to block a computer and hold it to ransom? Sure, how many tons would you like? You fancy a few credit card numbers, scans of passports, driving licenses, pornographic photos or videos? Buy one, get three free!

Conclusion 3.

What to do? The easiest thing is to download KSS and scan your computer. This is absolutely free and painless. No side effects, no doctor’s note required. If you like it, recommend it to your friends. Thanks in advance!

That’s all for now… well, no, not everything.

Statistics are an amazing thing, especially global statistics. They can sometimes reveal unexpected details. For example, they can pick out different levels of carelessness among computer users in different nations and regions. Which countries have the fewest infections, and which have the most? Here are the figures.

At the bottom of the list are Germany, Austria, and Switzerland with under 3% of infections. Scandinavia and the Czech Republic are not far behind the first group with an infection rate of slightly more than 3%.

Most infected (over 10%) are Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Turkey, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, India and Egypt are also on the hit list.

Interesting… I’ll keep on researching.

Oh! There is one more thing.

Some might object by saying that KSS is only used by those who already suspect infection, that it is “a health check at the entrance to the clinic”. I can say two things in response:

  1. Even those who care nothing for their health still get sick – it’s just that the infection goes undiagnosed (especially by KSS).
  2. KSS is not a full antivirus solution and cannot delve deep into the system, so it obviously won’t catch every last virus in the zoo. Let’s agree that these two factors more or less balance one another.

That’s all now! See you soon!

And stay healthy!

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