Financial data leads malicious spam hit list for third year in a row

The experts at Kaspersky Lab, a leading developer of secure content and threat management solutions, have summarized spammer activity for 2013:

– The proportion of spam in email flows was 69.6% in 2013, which is 2.5 percentage points lower than the previous year
– The percentage of emails with malicious attachments was 3.2% – 0.2 percentage points lower than in 2012
– 32.1% of phishing attacks targeted social networks
– The biggest sources of spam were China (23%) and the USA (18%)

The proportion of spam in email traffic continues to fall. In the last three years, the share of unsolicited messages has fallen by 10.7 percentage points.

It appears that advertisers increasingly prefer the various types of legitimate online advertising that are now available and which generate higher response rates at lower costs than spam can offer.

The criminalization of spam

In some spam categories, commercial advertising is being gradually displaced by criminal mailings such as spam messages advertising illegal goods or pornography.

A typical example is the Travel and Tourism category that used to account for 5-10% of all spam traffic.

These days, commercial adverts like this are rare, but the experts see numerous malicious emails actively exploiting the subject of travel and leisure.

Fake antivirus vendor messages

It is common for IT security experts to recommend that users regularly update their antivirus solutions, and that is something that cybercriminals tried to take advantage of in 2013.

There are emails that appear to be sent by well-known antivirus vendors that urged users to update their systems immediately using an attached file.

The attachment turned out to contain a Trojan from the infamous ZeuS/Zbot family that is designed to steal sensitive user data, particularly financial info.

Darya Gudkova, Head of Content Analysis at Kaspersky Lab said that, “For the third year in a row, the most prevalent malware spread by email were programs that attempted to steal confidential data, usually logins and passwords for Internet banking systems.”

“At the same time, however, phishing attacks are shifting from bank accounts to social networking and email. This can be partly explained by the fact that today’s email accounts often give access to a lot of content, including email, social networking, instant messaging, cloud storages and sometimes even a credit card,” Gudkova added.

‘Gray’ mailings: bypassing the spam filters

In a bid to reach even greater numbers of users, but wary of spam filters that block unwanted messages, advertisers are resorting to trickery.

Part of a mass mailing is sent to subscribers who have agreed to receive adverts, and the other part is sent to addresses taken from huge databases that these companies have purchased to people who never gave their consent to receive such messages.

If the mailings are blocked by spam filters, the advertisers contact the security vendor and try to prove their mailings are legitimate by showing the websites where users sign up and can unsubscribe at any time.

This poses a new challenge for the anti-spam industry and is leading to the development of new technologies based on sender reputations.

Where’s the spam coming from?

Asia accounted for 55.5% of the world’s spam in 2013 (an increase of 5.3 percentage points compared to 2012), followed by North America with 19% (+ 3.2 points).

Eastern Europe’s share almost doubled compared to the previous year, placing the region in third with 13.3%.

Western Europe remains in fourth place despite a decrease of 2.4 percentage points, while the share of Latin America in fifth place amounted to a threefold drop compared to 2012.

For more information about spam in 2013, please go to securelist.com


About Kaspersky Lab

Kaspersky Lab is the world’s largest privately held vendor of endpoint protection solutions. The company is ranked among the world’s top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users*. Throughout its more than 15-year history Kaspersky Lab has remained an innovator in IT security and provides effective digital security solutions for large enterprises, SMBs and consumers. Kaspersky Lab, with its holding company registered in the United Kingdom, currently operates in almost 200 countries and territories across the globe, providing protection for over 300 million users worldwide. Learn more at www.kaspersky.com.

* The company was rated fourth in the IDC rating Worldwide Endpoint Security Revenue by Vendor, 2011. The rating was published in the IDC report “Worldwide Endpoint Security 2012–2016 Forecast and 2011 Vendor Shares (IDC #235930, July 2012). The report ranked software vendors according to earnings from sales of endpoint security solutions in 2011.

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