The BBC is reporting that there has been a 50% increase in the number of viruses released in 2004; as many as 100,000 viruses were seen 'in the wild', many of them doing serious damage to their targets. Bot-nets, computers infected with remote control software featured largely in 2004; equally prominent was the use of viruses and these bot-nets for cyber-crime and sending spam.
2004 also saw the release of the first proper virus for mobile phones. For PC's, in first place on the top ten viruses of 2004 was the Netsky worm variant, Netsky-P. The worm exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer and mailed itself to vulnerable Windows machines.
It's very easy to blame Microsoft for the security issues associated with their products; after all, 90%+ of people using a PC on the desktop run a version of Windows. However, Microsoft are continuing to make serious efforts when it comes to security, and Service Pack 2 was a massive step in the right direction. Yet Bruce Schneier, a security expert, believes that although the likes of SP2 were a good start, they aren't good enough. "Deep down, Microsoft still treats security problems as public relations problems. They are still not able to make the hard trade-offs of security and functionality. They still see features as their primary goal, and security secondary."
Security problems are here to say; sensible protection can help you avoid them. Stay patched up and only use secure and trusted programs. Recent company acquisitions by Microsoft could signal either the inclusion of basic anti-virus and anti-spyware with Windows in 2005, or the offering of a Microsoft anti-virus solution.