Sophos has recommended that people switch to Apple Macs if they want to protect themselves from ongoing security problems.

The security company has just published its latest research into the past six months of cybercrime, the 'Sophos Security Threat Management Report Update' (PDF), and concluded that while there has been a big drop in new viruses and worms, that has been overcompensated for by increases in other types of malware, as cybercriminals turn their attention to stealing information and money.

Trojans now outnumber viruses and worms by four to one, compared with two to one in the first half of 2005. And as Windows-based threats continue to dominate, the researchers are recommending home users should switch to Macs, in an attempt to protect themselves from malware.

The most widespread threat from January to now is the Sober-Z worm, which, at its peak, accounted for one in every 13 emails. Netsky-P and Zafi-B took second and first place in prevalence, between them these three Trojans accounted for 43.5 percent of all malware activity in the first six months of 2006.

None of them affect any platform except Windows. "While the first malware for Mac OS X was seen in February 2006, it has not spread in the wild and has not heralded an avalanche of malicious code aimed at Macs," the analysts warn. The reason is that Windows is still used by the vast majority of computer owners, with corresponding rewards for criminals.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said: "Hackers seem happy to primarily target Windows users and not spread their wings to other platforms. It seems likely that Macs will continue to be the safer place for computer users for some time to come - something that home users may wish to consider if they're deliberating about the next computer they should purchase."

2006 has also seen the introduction of a new kind of Trojan attack, in which infected users can find their data and files kidnapped and held to ransom. Affected users are typically blackmailed into paying to have their data retrieved or risk losing it altogether. Three recent examples include the Ransom-A, Zippo-A and Arhiveus-A Trojans.

"Criminals are constantly finding new ways to get their hands on some easy cash and now they've stooped to blackmail," continued Cluley. "Given these filthy tactics, it's understandable that authorities are giving out increasingly harsh sentences for crimes of this nature."

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