Continuing evolution of Internet threats

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. These are the findings of the latest Commtouch Internet Threats Trend report.

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 report is based on the analysis of more than two billion email messages and Internet transactions seen daily within the company’s cloud-based global detection centers.

Other highlights from the 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.”

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