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PineApp reports: Storm wreaks havoc in 2007 and helps push spam

February 2008 by PineApp

Spam reached staggering levels of up to 96% of total Internet traffic in 2007 according to a report published by PineApp and Commtouch, which looks at email threats over the last 12 months. And it was the arrival of sophisticated botnets that hijack computing power to send spam, malware, phishing and perform distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that were largely to blame for this rise.

The Storm worm presented the most menacing threat; creating a large complex network of zombie computers that continues to multiply and has proved resilient to most anti-virus and anti-botnet measures. But experts agree that Storm it is still set to unleash even more havoc and vicious attacks in 2008.

While botnets helped to keep average spam levels at 80% through 2007, peak spam activity was recorded around holiday-related periods such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. Subject lines from ‘a fresh new year’ and ‘happy 2008!’ to ‘fast money for Christmas’ and ‘dancing bones’ were utilised in order to confuse content filters and recipients into thinking the messages were legitimate.

In addition, 2007 saw a rise in image-based spam and new types of attachment spam such as Word, Excel and PDF documents. And the last three months of the year saw an outbreak of MP3 spam that accounted for 7-10% of global spam at its peak. The MP3 attachments contained voice messages promoting ‘pump and dump’ stocks.

Another new trick from the spammers that appeared for the first time in 2007 was address violation spam, which distributes empty email messages to see if they bounce back. The ones that don’t return are considered valid addresses and put on so-called ‘clean’ lists that are rented out to other spammers and cyber villains.

The most popular spam emails were those advertising sexual enhancement aids which accounted for 70% of all spam with counterfeit replicas, mainly sent over holidays, coming in second with 10%.

“Spam remains a growing problem for organisation and individuals,” says PineApp’s Steve Cornish. “Botmasters are distributing their malicious peer-to-peer networks all over the globe and many blocking solutions are unable to cope with ever changing configurations of the bogus IP addresses. Only security solutions that are capable of detecting and classifying malicious activity in real-time are able to provide a barrier against this growing threat.”

PineApp’s Recurrent Pattern Detection™ (RPD) based on technology from Commtouch protects against spam and malware attacks as they are mass-distributed over the internet. Unwanted email is blocked at the network perimeter based on the reputation of the sender and identification of zombie traffic, making it capable of offloading over 80% of malicious traffic.

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