Microsoft today released the sixth volume of its Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, showing a significant increase in rogue security software or 'scareware'

Scareware pretends to alert users to security breaches in their system, while actually luring them to 'upgrade' to unnecessary purchases - or even install malware designed to steal personal information.

The Report shows that two rogue families, Win32/FakeXPA and Win32/FakeSecSen, were detected on more than 1.5 million computers by Microsoft software, catapulting them into the top 10 threats in the second half of the year.

Maintain your sangfroid

In addition, Win32/Renos, a threat used to deliver rogue security software, was detected on 4.4 million unique computers, an increase of two thirds over the first half of 2008.

"We continue to see an increase in the number of threats and complexity of those threats designed to implement crime at a variety of levels online," said Vinny Gullotto of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center. "We are seeing cybercriminals increasingly going after vulnerabilities in human nature rather than software."

Attackers have apparently shifted their focus from operating systems to applications - nearly 90 per cent of the vulnerabilities disclosed in the second half of 2008 affected applications.

Do you know where your laptop is?

The Security Intelligence Report also showed that lost and stolen equipment, not computer hacking, continues to be the most common cause of security breaches resulting in data loss - accounting for half of all reported incidents.

Released twice a year, the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report uses data gathered from hundreds of millions of computers worldwide to provide an in-depth snapshot of the threat landscape.

This volume covers the second half of 2008.