Malware volumes grew by a huge 300 per cent during 2008, fuelled in part by continuing job uncertainty, according to new research from security-as-a-service provider ScanSafe.
The firm analysed more than 240 billion web requests in over 80 countries last year, and found a particular growth in exploits and iframe attacks, which rose 1,731 per cent, and data-theft Trojans, which increased by 1,559 per cent.
Mary Landesman, senior security researcher at ScanSafe, suggested that the rise in criminal activity could correspond to the decline in the global economy.
"We saw a continued acceleration of web-delivered malware in 2008, reaching significant peaks in October and November. The numbers are staggering," she said.
"It could be that the increasing job losses and uncertainty are fuelling the surge in criminal activity. It is also likely that cyber crime is a viable business opportunity in a climate where legitimate opportunities are becoming increasingly limited."
ScanSafe also warned that trusted sites are now statistically the most dangerous on the web, as they are frequently hacked using techniques such as SQL injection attacks. The firm recorded 780,000 malicious web pages in April alone as a result of a single SQL injection attack.