The year 2008 has seen another record of explosive growth in the amount of malicious software (malware) on the Internet, according to F-Secure.
F-Secure protects consumers and businesses against computer viruses and other threats from the Internet and mobile networks.
The company's detection count tripled in one year, or rather, the total amount of malware accumulated over the previous 21 years increased by 200 percent in the course of just one year.
The security firm released these findings in its End of Year Data Security Wrap-up for 2008.
Internet crime is now more prevalent and more professional than ever before, said the company. F-Secure believes that the obvious inefficiency of the international and national authorities in catching, prosecuting and sentencing Internet criminals is a problem that needs to be solved. Mikko Hyppönen, F-Secure's chief research officer has called for the establishment of 'Internetpol' to tackle online crime.
Wrong message to criminals
Hyppönen said: "The bottom line today is that too few of the perpetrators get punished. As a result, we're sending the wrong message to criminals: here is a way to make lots of money and you will never be caught or punished."
Criminal activity for financial gain remains the driver for the massive increase in Internet threats. Today's malware is produced by highly organised criminal gangs using increasingly sophisticated techniques. This year has seen increasing botnet activity around the world. These remotely controlled networks of infected computers remain a major challenge to the IT security industry because it is their vast computing power that is behind the unprecedented level of spam e-mail and malware distribution, said F-Secure.
In 2008, Internet security issues once again made global news, from the huge rise in the amount of malware produced in the Chinese language during the Beijing Olympics, to attacks on the computer systems of the presidential candidates in the United States.
Three major London hospitals were affected by a computer virus outbreak, while the United States Department of Defense decided to ban the use of USB memory sticks because of the security threat they pose.
Into the space station
Malware even went into space as an online games password-stealer made its way onto the International Space Station on an infected laptop.
Bringing Internet criminals to justice remains a challenging task but there have been some recent successes. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation closed down Dark Market, an online marketplace for stolen credit card numbers and illegal Internet services.
Investigative journalistic work led to the demise of Web-hosting service company McColo, which hosted major botnets, resulting in a temporary fall in the amount of spam e-mail. On the corporate level, technology giant Microsoft has filed lawsuits against the purveyors of rogue security applications attempting to scare Internet users into buying worthless products.