Masked hacker on factory  background

Linux malware rapidly rising as hackers target enterprise

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The number of new Linux malware instances reached record highs in the first half of 2022, with nearly 1.7 million samples discovered, according to data analysis by Atlas VPN.

Until recently, cyber criminals have largely ignored Linux compared to other more popular operating systems. However, the most recent data shows that cyber attack trends are shifting.

According to the data presented by the Atlas VPN team, based on statistics, the numbers of new Linux malware reached record highs in the first half of 2022, with nearly 1.7 million samples discovered. Compared to the same period in 2021, new Linux malware numbers have soared by an astonishing 650 per cent.

The cumulative number of new Linux malware samples in H1 2022 alone was 31 per cent higher than the number of such samples in the whole year of 2021. The first half of 2022 saw more new Linux malware samples than any other year since 2008.


Linux Malware Chart 1 inline

Image credit: Atlas VPN


While Linux was the only operating system that saw growth in new malware samples in the first half of this year, Windows had the most significant number of new malware applications overall. In total, 41.4 million newly programmed Windows malware samples were identified in H1 2022.

Although Linux holds only 1 per cent of the operating system market share, it occupies the second spot on the list with 1.7 million malware samples in H1 2022.

Meanwhile, the most popular operating system, Android, had 716,201 newly developed malware samples in H1 2022, followed by macOS with 4,922.

While Linux is not as popular among personal computer users as other operating systems, it plays a significant role in running the back-end systems of many networks and servers, making Linux a potentially highly lucrative target, encouraging further attacks. As Linux adoption rises, so will the number of attacks against it, Atlas said.

Cyber attacks are increasingly a major technological and financial headache for businesses and national governments. Last week, the government of Albania was forced to shut down its online services after suffering ‘a synchronised criminal attack from abroad’.

Earlier this year, the UK government’s own ‘Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022’ revealed that 39 per cent of UK businesses had identified at least one cyber attack on their operations in the previous 12 months.

Following this, a report published in June by digital security provider Tanium claimed that many executive boards in pandemic-struck sectors are putting their companies’ recovery at risk by only approving IT security spending after they have been victims of a cyber attack, an approach that sees companies "wait for attack before defending themselves".

Cyber attacks are also increasingly indiscriminate regarding the types of business attracting nefarious attention. In May this year, researchers warned that the agricultural sector is now more at risk of cyber attacks with modern ‘smart’ farm machinery vulnerable to malicious hackers, leaving global supply chains exposed to risk. This is especially pertinent with a global food crisis looming, triggered by negative climate change effects on crop yields, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine.

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