In the first quarter of 2012, 6-million new malware samples were created, with Trojans setting a new record as the preferred category for information theft, representing 80% of all new malware.

This is according to PandaLabs’ Quarterly Report for Q1, which found that worms took second place, comprising 9,3% of samples, followed by viruses at 6,43%.

Regarding the number of infections caused by each malware category, the ranking coincides with that of new samples in circulation.

Trojans, worms and viruses again occupied the top three spots. However, worms only caused 8% of all infections despite accounting for more than 9% of new malware. These figures corroborate what is already known: massive worm epidemics have become a thing of the past, and have been replaced by an increasing avalanche of silent Trojans as cyber-criminals’ weapon of choice.

The average number of infected PCs across the globe stands at 35,51%, down more than three points compared to 2011, according to Panda Security’s Collective Intelligence data.

China once again led this ranking (54,25% of infected PCs), followed by Taiwan and Turkey. The list of least infected countries is dominated by Europe, with nine out of 10 places occupied by European countries. Japan is the only non-European country among the top 10 nations with fewer tan 30% of computers infected. The top three places are occupied by Sweden, Switzerland and Norway.

During the quarter, there was a marked increased in “ransomware” attacks, especially due to the so-called “Police Virus”. This virus displays messages containing the logos of international law enforcement agencies to trick users into believing their computers have been locked by the police for visiting inappropriate websites or making illegal downloads. To unlock it, users have to pay a fine, usually in the range of one hundred euros, dollars or British pounds (depending on the target of the attack). However, these messages don’t come from the police, but from the Trojan.

Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs, commentsL: “Although it’s still early in the year, so far what we have seen in 2012 is a continuation of past trends. Cyber-criminals are still trying to steal users’ information and money by any means posible.”