McAfee has issued a new threat report detailing 2016 malware trends. The decline in new malware samples in the final quarter of 2016 does not suggest that 2017 will see a continued fall in new malware, but the opposite, according to McAfee Labs.

2016 malware trends follow a similar pattern to 2015. The first quarter saw large volumes of new malware discovered, followed by a steady decline over the next three quarters. The same trend was identified in 2015. Far from that decline continuing into 2017, the first quarter figures – which will not be made available until the summer – are likely to follow a similar trend and involve a massive in malware numbers in the first three months of 2017.

Further, there has been a steady increase in the number of new malware samples detected year on year, from around 400 million per quarter in 2015 to more than 600 million per quarter in 2016. If that trend continues into 2017, this year is likely to see around 800,000 new malware samples detected each quarter on average.  McAfee predicts that there will be around 17 million malware samples by the end of this year.

McAfee reports that ransomware has increased steadily over the course of 2016, starting the year with around 6 million samples and finishing the year with over 9 million detected samples. However, the final quarter of 2016 saw a sharp drop in ransomware due to a decline in generic ransomware detections and a fall in the use of Locky.

There have been relatively few new Mac OS malware samples detected over the past two years, although Q3, 2016 saw new Mac OS malware increase from around 10,000 to 50,000, with a massive rise to around 320,000 new samples in the final quarter of 2016.

By the end of 2016, the total number of Mac OS malware rose to more than 450,000, from around 50,000 at the end of Q4, 2015. The increase mostly involved bundled adware.

The switch from exploit kits to email as the main attack vector is evident from the figures for new macro malware, with a sharp rise in Q2, 2016 and a continued rise in Q3. In Q1, there were around 60,000 detections, in Q3 that figure had risen to more than 200,000.

The public sector was most affected by security breaches in 2016, followed by healthcare, online services, finance, and software development. The biggest causes of security incidents, for which the causes are known, were account hijacking, followed by DDoS attacks, targeted attacks, SQL injection and malware.  The main methods used for conducting network attacks last year were SSL (33%), DoS (15%), Worms (13%), brute force attacks (13%), and browser-based attacks (15%).

There has been a downward trend in new suspect URLS detected from Q1 2015 to Q2, 2016, although that trend has reversed in the last two quarters of 2016 with new malicious URL detections starting to rise steadily.  New phishing URLS ebb and flow, although there was a general upward trend in 2016. McAfee’s figures shows spam email volume has remained fairly constant for the past two years, with the bulk of spam messages delivered using the Necurs botnet in Q3 and Q4, 2016.