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Threat evolution speeds up with the use of social networking

Commtouch : 14 January, 2010  (Technical Article)
Fourth quarter Internet Threat trend from Commtouch identifies larger number of common brand names used as lures as well as an increase in spam targetting women
Commtouch has released its Internet Threats Trend Report for Q4 2009. Spammers continue to be cutting-edge marketers, this time taking advantage of the reputations of global brands, such as UPS, DHL and Facebook to prompt opening of emails.

During this past quarter, cybercriminals focused on distributing the Mal-Bredo A virus. While the number of variants decreased from 10,000 to 1,000 as compared to last quarter, it was spread with much more virulence.

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 Q4 Trend Report include:

* An average of 312,000 zombies were newly activated daily for the purpose of malicious activity.
* Spam levels averaged 77% of all email traffic throughout the quarter, peaking at 98% in November and bottoming out at 68% at the end of December.
* Sites in the "Computers & Technology" and "Search Engines & Portals" categories topped the list of Web categories manipulated by phishing schemes.
* 'Business' continued to be the Web site category most infected with malware for the third quarter in a row.
* Pharmacy spam remained in the top spot with 81% of all spam messages; last quarter, it led with 68%. Replicas remained in the #2 spot, falling from 19% to 5.4%.
* Brazil continues to produce the most zombies, responsible for 20.4% of global zombie activity.

Blended threats, including fake Swine Flu alerts and Halloween tricks, continued to circulate, while spammers introduced a few new ploys including MP3 spam and personal enhancement spam targeting women.

"As we review the Internet threats for this quarter, we can really see the creativity the cybercriminals use to ensure their messages are opened," said Asaf Greiner, Commtouch vice president, products. "Whether we like it or not, their activities really demonstrate when society-wide activities - such as social media participation - reach critical mass. Essentially, if a spammer is using a specific brand to entice consumers to open their mail, it means that brand has achieved a strong, positive reputation."

Commtouch Recurrent Pattern Detection and GlobalView technologies identify and block messaging and Web security threats, including increasingly malicious malware and phishing outbreaks. More details, including samples and statistics, are available in the Commtouch Q4 2009 Internet Threats Trend Report.

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 at the ISP level.
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