Malware infections in the United States dropped by 47 percent in the first half of 2016 when compared to the same period last year, according to a new report by cybersecurity software provider Enigma Software.
Enigma analyzed 30 million infected computers and found that while malware and ransomware infections still remained at an all-time high relative to prior years, the overall rate of infections had dropped 47.3 percent compared to the first half of 2015.
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Enigma said June 2016 saw the lowest rate of malware infections since April 2013, which it attributed to improved web browser security and better antivirus software, among other things. It also cited the growing use of mobile devices for internet tasks, which meant less time on the PC—an interesting notion.
The company also thinks people are finally wising up with their use.
"We believe consumers have become more aware of some of the common mistakes that lead to the more common infections, such as adware, potentially unwanted programs and toolbars," ESG spokesperson Ryan Gerding said in a statement.
He also noted that the major browsers (Firefox, Chrome and Edge) and popular apps are releasing security updates regularly to patch vulnerabilities and prevent the installation of malware.
Further, Gerding said a string of arrests of high-profile Russian hackers who targeted thousands of systems with malware might have put a dent in the malware infesting the internet. The criminals earned over 1.7 billion rubles (U.S. $25 million), but now they face jail time. And when one group gets busted, they tend to be replaced rather quickly.
However, Gerding said ransomware, while still a tiny fraction of all infections, is growing fast.
"If you looked at the percentage of infections made up by ransomware in 2016, you would see a 119 percent spike from 2015. To us, this means malware makers may be shifting their attention to less common, but much more costly infections like ransomware," he said.
Cities that have the most malware infections
ESG also looked at infection by city in the U.S., and the results were unusual. It would stand to reason that the cities with the largest population would have the most computers, and subsequently the highest number of infections. But ESG divided the number of infections detected in each city by its population, which it said gave a better clue of which cities actually had the highest infection rate.
The result? Look at the cities that have the highest rate above the national average:
- Tampa, Fla. — 916%
- St. Louis — 816%
- Orlando, Fla. — 799%
- Denver — 657%
- Atlanta — 582%
- Cincinnati — 524%
- Newark, N.J. — 523%
- Salt Lake City — 460%
- Madison, Wisc. — 445%
- Washington, D.C. — 395%
Now the cities with the lowest rate compared to the national average:
- Los Angeles — 21%
- Riverside, Calif. — 19%
- Albuquerque, N.M. — 16%
- Wichita, Kan. — 16%
- Corpus Christi, Texas — 14%
- San Diego — 14%
- Tucson, Ariz. — 11%
- Chattanooga, Tenn. — 10%
- Lexington, Ky. — 5%
- San Antonio — 5%
Enigma Software’s report can be found here.