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Malicious programs capable of turning home PCs into zombies controlled by hackers are growing at between 150 to 200 per week. McAfee's Anti-virus and Vulnerability Emergency Response Team (AVERT) reports that bots (now numbering over 7,000) and mass mailing viruses are the greatest threat to enterprises. Meanwhile exploits and adware account for over 60 per cent of the malicious threats impacting consumers.

Already Windows PCs submitted to online scanning by McAfee contained an average of 13 adware components. It warns that spam encoded to take advantage of the latest exploits to install spyware will ramp up consumer security risks even higher.

The number of computer viruses rated medium risk or higher by McAfee increased from 20 in 2003 to 46 in 2004, an increase of 130 per cent. By the end of 2004, McAfee's AVERT Labs had detected 17,000 new malware threats. Vulnerabilities discovered in 2004 totalled more than 2,800, down 25 per cent from 2003, however McAfee reckons that malicious hackers are becoming quicker at producing exploits.

"In 2004, the rise in viruses, worms, phishing, adware and vulnerability exploitation has surpassed what was noted in 2003," said Vincent Gullotto, vice president of McAfee AVERT. "Although we saw a steady five per cent (year over year) decrease in the rate of virus production from 2000 to 2003, we have seen an increase in 2004 which can be partly attributed to Bagle and NetSky authors feuding, as well as a general lack of awareness in regards to adware and other such programs." ®

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