Windows 7 Malware On The Rise, says Microsoft

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has revealed that the infection rate for Windows 7 computers has increased. But the Windows 7 operating system still remains considerably more secure than its predecessors.

The most talked-about figure in the newly-published statistics is a 33 per cent hike in the proportion of Windows 7 computers suffering from a malware infection. That's a potentially misleading oversimplification, though. The actual rate increased during 2010 from three PCs per thousand to four per thousand, figures that could easily be distorted by rounding errors.

Windows XP Still Riskiest for Malware Infections

By way of comparison, the rate for Windows Vista machines rose from six per thousand to a peak of eight per thousand, before falling back slightly.

Windows XP infections dropped from 18 per thousand to 14 per thousand. That, and the large number of Windows users still on XP, meant the overall infection rate fell from 10.8 per thousand to 8.7 per thousand.

There are a couple of possible explanations for these trends. One is that hackers are intentionally paying more attention to the newer editions as they become more widely users.

Another possibility is that the longer Windows 7 is out, the more opportunity there is for hackers to both discover flaws and to find ways to get round the additional layers of security built-in to the system.

Infection Statistics From an Inside Perspective

The statistics come from Microsoft's latest Security Intelligence Report and are specifically taken from the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT).

MSRT is part of Microsoft's automated update process: it seeks out and tackles examples of malware known to be a particular risk. It's applied to all Windows machines with Windows automatic updates switched on and is separate from the standalone Microsoft Security Essentials package. (Source:

Malware, Phishing Attacks and High-Value Targets

The report also detailed some trends in malware.

The most notable is a clear divide between two styles of hacking: one is to use highly-sophisticated attacks on high-value targets such as major corporations, while the other is to use more simplistic attacks that take advantage of human weaknesses in the hope of stealing small amounts of cash from a large number of people.

The latter is demonstrated by a 1,200 per cent increase in phishing scams, which are now overwhelmingly carried out on social networking sites rather than simply via email. (Source:

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