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Spam Levels Return To High Levels After 4Q Lull

Commtouch : 13 January, 2011  (Technical Article)
Commtouch’s Internet Threats Trend Report highlights 45% increase in spam after reported reductions in the 4th quarter of last year
Spam levels started bouncing back this week after a significant decrease in the fourth quarter, Commtouch reported in its quarterly Internet Threats Trend Report, which covers spam, phishing, malware and Web threats.

December’s daily average for spam was around 30% less than in September; however spam activity increased by 45% just prior to the report’s publication. The average amount of spam for the fourth quarter of 2010 was 83% of all email sent worldwide, down from 88% in the third quarter. The number of zombies active in the fourth quarter was on average 15% less than in the previous quarter.

“An inactive botnet is like an idle factory, a money-losing proposition for spammers,” said Asaf Greiner, Commtouch vice president of products. “We have seen situations where after a lull in spam or malware distribution a new tactic was introduced. Threat experts are wise to continue following changes in network behaviour in order to proactively block new threats.”


Highlights from the Q4 Trend Report include:


* Spam levels averaged 142 billion spam/phishing messages per day during Q4 compared to the 198 billion spam/phishing messages per day during Q3.

* Approximately 288,000 zombies were activated daily, a significant decrease as compared to 339,000 during Q3.

* The most popular spam topic in Q4 was pharmacy ads (42% of all spam).

* For the fifth quarter running, pornography/sexually explicit material is the website category most likely to include malware.

* India keeps its title for the third quarter in a row as the country with the most zombies – 17% of all zombies worldwide.

* Streaming media/downloads continues to be the most popular topic for blog creators in the Web 2.0 sphere of user-generated content.


During Q4, vintage spam methods were combined with new ones to further increase the potential for successful spam purchases, phishing, and malware installations. Small and hidden fonts were combined with Twitter subject lines and links exploiting Google’s cache service. This quarter also saw the return of ASCII art spam. As for more “modern” threats, Koobface malware links continued to circulate on Facebook, while, offering content sharing and synchronization services, was used to host spam links.


Commtouch’s quarterly trend report reflects the results of its analysis of billions of Internet transactions daily within the company’s cloud-based GlobalView Network. With the acquisition of the Command Antivirus division of Authentium Commtouch has added the malware analysis capabilities of the Command AV labs.

Commtouch Recurrent Pattern Detection, GlobalView technologies and multi-layered Command Antivirus identify and block Internet security threats.


NOTE: Reported global spam levels are based on Internet email traffic as measured from unfiltered data streams, not including internal corporate traffic. Therefore global spam levels will differ from the quantities reaching end user inboxes, due to several possible layers of filtering.
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