Spam increase with booming underground economy
Spam levels increased by 5.1 percent in May 2009, according to the Intelligence report of MessageLabs which is now a part of Symantec. The majority of these comprised of messages with little content apart from a subject line and a valid hyperlink.
Matt Sergeant, Chief Anti-spam Technologist for Symantec's MessageLabs unit says, "With the wide availability of email mailing lists, and with so many botnets for rent to carry them, spam campaigns have become appallingly cheap to launch. For about $10, you can send a million emails."
Sergeant will speak on spam and the cybercrime economy at next week's Gartner Security Summit in Washington D.C.
According to him, spam continues to grow because of the large amount of money involved. "In 2008 CAPTCHA-breaking, social networking spam and the use of webmail for spamming all became popular tactics. Today, the bad guys are using the three together as a triple threat to heighten the effectiveness of their spamming," Said Paul Wood, MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Symantec. Over 57.6 percent of spam traffic comes from known botnets; and an emerging botnet called Donbot has been responsible for 18.2 percent of all spam.
MessageLabs has now begun to track single spam campaigns across multiple botnets. Sergeant says, "We can see that spammers will send out a short campaign on a botnet to evaluate it. Then the spammer will choose the lowest-priced botnet for rent, and test it to see the results. If they don't like what they find, it's fairly cheap and easy to find another botnet to try."
The ease of choice and increased spam competition has been the cause of underground markets that allow spammers to get the best deals. In fact some spammers are targeting specific audiences. For instance some are targeting users of AOL and Gmail.
He expects more social networking spam in the future. "We particularly expect to see blended threats that take advantage of social networks and the Web at the same time. Users are however still not very cautious when it comes to dealing with spam. In fact there has been no decrease in the number of users falling for spam messages," he said.
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