New Linux malware hits record highs in 2022, rising by 50%

Despite Linux’s reputation as the most secure operating system, it is not immune to malware. In fact, Linux malware has become increasingly prevalent in recent years as more and more devices and servers run on Linux operating systems.

According to data analyzed by the Atlas VPN team based on malware threat statistics from AV-ATLAS, new Linux malware threats hit record numbers in 2022, increasing by 50% to 1.9 million.

The majority — 854,690 — of new Linux malware samples were detected in the first quarter of 2022. In the second quarter, new malware samples dropped by almost 3% to 833,065.

New Linux malware numbers plummeted again in the third quarter of the year, this time by a whopping 91% to 75,841. However, in the fourth quarter of 2022, they picked up again, growing by 117% to 164,697.

Other operating systems see a decline in new malware

While Linux malware reached never-before-seen numbers in 2022, the total number of new malware developments actually fell. Compared to 2021, when 121.6 million samples were detected, new malware numbers dropped by 39% to 73.7 million in 2022.

Android saw the most significant fall in newly-programmed malware. New Android malware samples declined by 68%, from 3.4 million in 2021 to 1.1 million in 2022.

Next up is Windows. Despite being the most targeted operating system last year, with over 95% of all new malware threats aimed at it, Windows still had a 40% decline in new malware samples. They fell from 116.95 million in 2021 to 70.7 million in 2022.

Finally, new malware applications aimed at macOS plunged by 26% from 17,061 in 2021 to 12,584 in 2022.

All in all, Linux is still a highly secure operating system. The open-source nature of Linux allows for constant review by the tech community, leading to fewer exploitable security vulnerabilities. Additionally, Linux limits administrative privileges for users and compared to more widely used operating systems like Windows, it still has less malware targeting it.

Nevertheless, the new malware numbers show that the Linux threat landscape is evolving, and attackers increasingly see Linux as another worthwhile target. Linux users need to be aware of the growing risks, as prioritizing system security is more important than ever.