Spam and malware at all-time highs

By SiliconIndia   |   Thursday, 30 July 2009, 03:10 Hrs   |    1 Comments
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Bangalore: Spam volumes increased by 141 percent since March 2009, since more than 14 million computers were taken over by botnets this quarter. Spam and botnets have hit their highest levels ever, according to the second quarter 'Threats Report' brought out by McAfee. In the Q2, spam shot up by 80 percent compared to the first quarter of the year.

The number of computers enslaved by cybercriminal botnets this quarter was up by 16 percent to 14 million, which works out to about 150,000 computers every day or 20 percent of all computers purchased on an average day. McAfee researchers also found that, over the course of 30 days, Auto-Run malware had infected more than 27 million files. Auto-Run malware, which exploits Windows' Auto-Run capabilities, does not require any user clicks to activate, and is most often spread through portable USB and storage devices. The rate of detection surpasses even that of the infamous Conficker worm by 400 percent, making Auto-Run the number one piece of malware detected around the world.

Mike Gallagher, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, McAfee Avert Labs said, "The jump in bot and spam activity we saw in the last three months is alarming and the threat from Auto-Run malware continues to grow. The expansion of these infections is a grave reminder of the potential harm that can be caused by unprotected computers in homes and businesses."

Among all the countries, South Korea saw the largest bump in botnet activity, where it is up by 45 percent over last quarter to just less than four percent overall. While the growth in South Korea is substantial, it only accounts for less than four percent of the world’s new bots. The U.S. tops the list with 15 percent of the new zombie computers. Brazil, Turkey, India, and Poland have also seen sizable increase at producing spam.

Botnet expansion is being considered as the main driver in the increasing volume of spam, which is now 92 percent of all email. Spam volumes are growing by over 117 billion emails every day, states McAfee report. Social networks like Facebook and MySpace, as well as blogging site Twitter, have also been used to spread spam. In May, spam messages on social networks pointed users to 4,300 new files from the Koobface virus.

As the number of bots continues to grow, malware writers have begun to offer malicious software as a service to those who control botnets. By exchanging or selling resources, cybercriminals distribute new malware to wider audiences instantaneously. Programs like Zeus - an easy-to-use Trojan creation tool - continue to make the creation and management of malware even easier.

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