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The volume - if not the variety - of malware samples has undergone almost exponential growth over the last three years.

Malware samples reached 5,490,960 in 2007, five times more than the 972,606 recorded in 2006; which was itself almost three times more than the 333,425 recorded in 2005. The figures, compiled by AV-Test.org, represent a growth in the number of variants of the same piece of malware rather than the creation of numerous new malware strains.

The rise of malware created for profit instead of for mischief has meant that the same banking Trojan, for example, will be altered repeatedly in a bid to fool anti-malware scanners. The sheer bulk of material coming through is placing a heavy workload on security firms.

"We’re processing gigabytes of malware daily," reports Alex Eckelberry, president and chief exec of Sunbelt Software, in a blog post. "Our automated systems like our Sandbox help; but in the end, manpower plays a key role in being ahead of the game."

In other anti-virus industry news, a group of anti-virus vendors and testing group met in Bilbao, Spain, this week to thrash out plans for a new security testing organisation. The group - to be called the AMTSO, or the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization - aims to improve anti-malware security software testing to respond to changing market dynamics. Not least among these changes is the creation of multiple variants of the same malware strains. ®

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