Spam Steady but Viruses Down, MessageLabs Finds

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Spam Steady but Viruses Down, MessageLabs Finds


The frequency of spam e-mail messages barely budged up or down in the third quarter of this year, while viruses and Trojans have gradually decreased since the beginning of 2006, according to findings from the latest MessageLabs Intelligence Report. The organization, however, also observed a spike in phishing attacks during the three-month period.


Spam represented 64.4 percent of all e-mail traffic in September, a decrease of only 0.1 percent from the previous month. Israel continues to be the world’s top target in this regard with 73.6 percent of all e-mails sent being spam messages, while Ireland suffered the largest increase with a jump of 1.7 percent to 64.2 percent overall. India is the least-spammed nation with just a 25 percent ratio, which is even more amazing when one considers that it was the most-spammed country this same time last year, when it had 81.69 percent spam rate.


Virus and Trojan traffic, however, is on the decline: In September, the global ratio of viruses in e-mail traffic destined for valid recipients from new and previously unknown sources was one in 89.6 (or 1.12 percent), which is a much lower figure than the one registered in this quarter in 2005.


September, however, also saw a significant rise in the proportion of phishing attacks when compared with August. One in 170 e-mails (0.59 percent) was some form of phishing attack. When judged as a proportion of all e-mail-borne threats such as viruses and Trojans, the number of phishing e-mails rose by 21.7 percent and accounted for 52.4 percent of all the malicious e-mails intercepted by MessageLabs in last month.


MessageLabs experts think this trend is indicative of more sophisticated strategies on the part of spammers, phishers and other black hats. What makes this especially dangerous is that many institutions with extremely valuable and sensitive data — such as banks — have not taken the necessary steps to protect their Web-based communications systems.


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