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Internet threat report for third quarter

Commtouch : 14 October, 2009  (Technical Article)
With overall phishing levels decreasing during the third quarter, there was nonetheless an increase in attack sophistication during the same period
The third quarter of 2009 raised debate in the security industry following published reports that phishing attacks had declined overall. Commtouch and its security alliance partners weighed in on this discussion and shared their phishing trend data in the Q3 2009 Internet Threat Trends Report by Commtouch.

Also for the second quarter in a row, there were spikes in email-borne viruses not caught by major anti-virus engines, differentiating the results of these two quarters from the rather consistently low numbers seen during the previous 18 months, according to the Report.

Commtouch's quarterly trend report is based on the analysis of over two billion email messages and Internet transactions seen daily in the Company's cloud-based global detection centres.

Other highlights from the Q3 Trend Report include:

* An average of 332,000 zombies were newly activated each day for the purpose of malicious activity.
* Spam levels averaged 83% of all email traffic throughout the quarter, peaking at 97% in July and bottoming out at 71% in August.
* Email-borne malware that bypassed traditional anti-virus engines peaked every 11 to 13 days during the second half of the quarter, dominated by Mal-Bredo A and Mal Behav-340, of which over 10,000 distinct variants were distributed.
* Sites in the 'Health & Medicine' and 'Sex Education' categories topped the list of Web categories manipulated by phishing schemes.
* 'Business' continued to be the Web site category most infected with malware.
* The financial crises and the debate around health care reform in the US has shaped recent spam trends.
* Pharmacy spam returned to the top spot with 68% of all spam messages. Last quarter's top spam subject, enhancements, fell from 46.2% to 11% of all spam messages during the quarter.
* Brazil continues to produce the most zombies, responsible for 19.7% of global zombie activity.

Comparing phishing data between organizations is problematic because of the varying methods used to gather and compile data. For this reason, a broad, multi-vendor view of Web security trends, such as through the Commtouch Security Alliance, draws the most accurate picture of the Internet threatscape.

"It is not only the absolute number of attacks which is important when examining phishing data, but also the sophistication of such attacks that causes data to vary from company to company. Small, targeted attacks can cause much more financial damage than less sophisticated large scale ones," said Asaf Greiner, vice president of Web security at Commtouch. "In our examination of spam messages which lure end users to phishing sites, we see that there is not only great fluctuation in the volumes of attacks, but also great differences in the quality of them, which has a direct link to the likelihood of the attack to cause damage."

Commtouch Recurrent Pattern Detection and GlobalView technologies identify and block messaging and Web security threats, including increasingly malicious malware and phishing outbreaks.
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