Sixty per cent of all malware ever identified by Symantec was created and distributed last year.
According to Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report for 2008, malicious code activity grew at a record pace and primarily targeted confidential information.
It also reported that more than 60 per cent of the total malicious code signatures ever created by Symantec was in 2008 – a response to the rapidly increasing volume and proliferation of new malicious code threats. These signatures helped Symantec block an average of more than 245 million attempted malicious code attacks across the globe each month during 2008.
The report noted that web surfing remained the primary source of new infections in 2008, and that attackers are relying more and more on customised malicious code toolkits to develop and distribute their threats.
Further, 90 per cent of all threats detected by Symantec during the study period attempt to steal confidential information and key logging made up 76 per cent of threats to confidential information.
Stephen Trilling, vice president of Symantec security technology and response, said: “As malicious code continues to grow at a record pace we're also seeing that attackers have shifted away from mass distribution of a few threats to micro-distribution of millions of distinct threats.
“Cybercriminals are profiting from creating and distributing customised threats that steal confidential information, particularly bank account credentials and credit card data. While the above ground economy suffers, the underground economy has remained consistently steady.”