Phishers prefer real money to virtual funds

October was rich in sensational events which, as usual, the spammers exploited to the full, says Kaspersky Lab.

Mass mailings were registered that referred to the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs, the majority of them containing malicious code. Spammers also reacted to another death, that of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on 20 October, with some classic “Nigerian’ letters. Users received emails allegedly sent by Gaddafi’s “relatives” and his “former officers”, who had allegedly inherited part of his “countless treasures”. All the letters contained offers to share some of the wealth.

There were also messages with a Christmas or New Year twist adding a seasonal flavour to October’s spam. They tended to contain adverts for presents and trips during the festive season.

The problems with the global economy clearly had an effect on phishing activity, with fraudsters demonstrating a preference for real money instead of virtual funds. As a result, banks and financial services became more attractive targets in October, with social networks and online games receiving less attention from the phishers.

October also saw the sources of spam traffic distributed more evenly throughout the world than in previous months. In Q3 2011, almost 50 per cent of spam traffic came from the top five source countries. In October, however, these countries contributed just 33.4 per cent. At the same time, more spam emanated from other countries included in our rating of top sources. That rating is still headed by India (-4.7 percentage points) followed by South Korea (-0.7 percentage points), Brazil (-4.1 percentage points) and Indonesia (-3.4 percentage points). Italy was the surprise package in fifth place (+2.47 percentage points).

There was also a drop (-2 percentage points) in the share of malicious files found in emails in October. Meanwhile, the amount of mail antivirus detections in Russia nearly doubled (+8.26 percentage points), and as a result Russia took a significant lead at the top of this particular rating. The usual suspects – the US and the UK – completed the top three countries with the most mail antivirus detections (+2.1 and +1.2 percentage points respectively).

While the share of partner spam and adverts for spammer services decreased in October, the overall amount of ordered spam grew. However, if the negative trends affecting the global economy continue, the volume of spam sent as part of a partner program can be expected to increase dramatically.

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