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News

Holiday Spam Spike Leads To Laptop Health Check Warning

M86 Security : 24 August, 2011  (Technical Article)
As workers start returning to their offices from holiday destinations, M86 Security is warning that businesses should oversee health checks on laptop computers used by workers outside the office during the holiday period
Holiday Spam Spike Leads To Laptop Health Check Warning
M86 Security is urging people to update their home computers and businesses to quarantine returning laptops, after seeing a huge spike in spam during the holiday period.

After a steady decline in spam since June 2010, researchers from M86 Security Labs observed spam levels doubling during August 2011. Worryingly, malicious spam has leapt from 0.2 per cent in June 2011 to 24 per cent of total spam analysed by the M86 Security researchers in August 2011.

Last August the notorious Pushdo/Cutwail spammer botnet was taken down after a co-ordinated effort by security researchers, followed by the closure of the Spamit affiliate programme in September 2010, resulting in a significant decrease in spam. At that time M86 Security predicted that other botnets would move in to take Cutwail’s place. The latest Security Labs research indicates that spammers have tried to rebuild their botnets over the current summer holiday period.

Ed Rowley, Senior Product Manager at M86 Security, attributes the sudden increase in spam to employees using home computers during the holiday period: “Spammers are constantly looking for ways to increase their zombie networks so that they can continue to get paid by their affiliate programmes. While work laptops are covered by corporate security updates, holiday makers may spend more time than normal on their home computers or personal laptops, which are less well protected. There is a risk that known vulnerabilities will go unpatched, leading to your PC being added to a new botnet. Following the massive increase in malicious spam, we would urge all staff returning to the office after the summer break to get their laptops scanned and updated with the latest security patches before connecting to the company network. We can only reduce global spam levels by cutting the spambot operators’ access to zombie machines. That requires law enforcement agencies and security researchers to continue to disrupt spammers’ operations, but end users can also play their part by keeping applications updated”, said Rowley.
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