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Rootkits To Mask Most Malware By 2008

Rootkits that hide malicious software from anti-virus and anti-spyware tools are growing in number and sophistication, and will pose an unprecedented risk to users by 2008, security company McAfee said this week.

In the opening quarter of 2006, said McAfee in the first of a trilogy of reports on rootkits, its Avert Labs spotted more rootkit components in worms, Trojan horses, and spyware than in all of 2005. During the past three years, the use of rootkits in malicious code has soared by more than 600 percent.

"There have been dramatic increases in the last year or two," said Stuart McClure, a McAfee vice president and the chief of Avert Labs. "This hasn't been a linear ramp-up."

Although rootkits began innocently enough -- the term originally referred to a collection of Unix utilities that gave administrator-level access (known as root access) -- they began to go dark as long ago as 1986. Most users first became aware of them much more recently; in late 2005, news broke that Sony BMG Music was using a rootkit to hide anti-piracy protection on audio CDs played on PCs.

"This is creating hardier and ever more virulent strains of malware that will continue to threaten businesses and consumers alike,” McClure said.

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