Seventy percent of malicious software being circulated is linked to various types of cybercrime, a study by security firm Panda Software showed yesterday.
The report, based on a survey in the first quarter of this year, suggested that "financial profit has become a priority" for creators of "malware," which includes viruses, worms, trojans and spyware, the company said.
The survey confirms a shift from several years ago, when malicious software was often aimed at garnering attention or exposing security flaws.
"Malware has become a took for generating financial returns," the report said.
"Activities which were previously motivated by the egocentric or narcissistic natures of certain individuals seeking notoriety or looking for a platform to demonstrate their technical know-how, now have a single objective: Fraudulently profiting by exploiting the latest technology."
The report also suggests that hackers are moving away from e-mail worms to forms of malicious code more difficult to detect.
About 40 percent of the problems detected by Panda was spyware, a type of malicious code designed for financial gain, primarily through collecting data on users' Internet activities.
Another 17 percent was trojans, including "banker trojans" that steal confidential data related to bank services, others that download malicious applications onto systems.
Eight percent of the problems detected were "dialers," malicious code that dials up premium-rate numbers without users' knowledge; "bots," a scheme involving the sale or rental of networks of infected computers, accounted for four percent of the total.
The e-mail worm, which was recently considered a major Internet threat, made up only four percent of the total.
"Epidemics caused by e-mail worms stir up too much publicity and are therefore no use when it comes to generating profits," said Luis Corrons, director of PandaLabs.