Ten million zombies distribute spam and malware daily

According to a Panda Security and CommTouch report on the current state of spam, on average during the second quarter of this year, more than 10 million zombie computers were sending spam and emails with malware every day.

The vast number of ‘zombies’ continues to be largely responsible for the avalanche of spam suffered by users and companies. Between April and June 2008, 74 percent of all mail received was spam. The bots infecting these computers are small programs dropped on computers that enable attackers to take remote control of the system and botnets are groups of computers infected by bots and primed to act in unison.

Cyber-crooks send instructions to these computers, including commands to download malware onto the system, display advertising to the user, launch denial of service attacks, and above all, distribute spam.

In the second quarter of 2008, Turkey became the country with most zombie computers (11 percent of the global total), followed by Brazil (8.4 percent) and Russia (7.4 percent). The USA, which in the first quarter accounted for 5 percent of all zombies, is now in ninth place with just 4.3 percent of the total.

During the second quarter of 2008, there have been no revolutionary trends in the distribution of spam and malware via email, largely due to the fact that existing methods are still serving cyber-crooks well.

Google Adwords has been at the center of one of the most notable attacks over the last quarter. This Google service had been used previously to launch phishing attacks and the trend continues. This type of attack uses social engineering to trick users into revealing confidential details (bank account numbers, passwords, etc.).

Aimed at the owners of Google Adwords accounts, the messages include subjects such as “your Adwords Google account is stopped” or “account reactivation” and include seemingly legitimate links. If users click the link, they are taken to a page that appears genuine and are prompted to enter their confidential details which will immediately fall into the hands of cyber-crooks.

Tax information has been another favorite of spammers. Around the period for filing tax returns in April, attackers distributed mail with subjects such as: “Get a fast tax refund free” or “Get fast relief for IRS tax debt.” In most cases, the aim of these attacks was to obtain confidential details such as bank account numbers or physical addresses.

The Blogspot platform has also been used to host and distribute malicious content. Perhaps as a result of the growing awareness by Blogspot and its attempts to counter this type of content, spammers have begun to use other platforms. Blogdrive fell victim in this second quarter to spammers, who launched a wave of comments at the platform containing links to pornographic websites.

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