The Spam Report, October 2008

An overview of the latest spam trends and online threats

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By  Vineetha Menon Published  October 6, 2008

There's been a significant increase in zombie activity worlwide, where compromised computers are being used to send spam. In a startling revelation, the EMEA region has been recognized as the leading source of all zombie IP addresses.

The latest report by Symantec confirms that spam levels have increased considerably, accounting now for 78% of all emails.

The biggest spam attacks involved the Internet or computer-related services (24%) and financially-related emails (20%), which shows that spammers are making the most of the US housing market downturn and general economic instability.

As the US presidential election comes to a close in November, citizens in America are growing increasingly curious and interested in the two candidates – John McCain and Barack Obama. Spammers are using this interest as the focus of their attacks by luring victims with e-mail headers such as ‘Who will win the 2008 presidential election?’ and ‘Is Obama ready to lead?’

The most shocking trend however has been the rise in zombie machines globally. For the uninitiated, a ‘zombie’ computer is one that has been compromised by a virus and falls under the control of a bot (web robot). They are then used by online criminals to distribute spam email, spread viruses, attack other computers and servers, and commit other types of crimes and fraud.

In August there was a 37% drop in the number of zombies sending spam, but it jumped to a 101% increase last month, with the EMEA region primarily driving the increase. Of all the countries in this region, Turkey was found to produce the most zombie IP addresses.

The increase has been noticed in ten different countries - South Korea, Kazakhstan, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, China and Morocco.

The rise in zombie machines can be attributed to more e-mails carrying links to downloadable content and attached .zip and RAR files.

South Korea led the nine other countries with a 4236% increase in zombie machines. Saudi Arabia also recorded a startling 555% rise, while the other Middle Eastern countries of Turkey, Iran and Morocco had zombie increases of 310%, 233% and 155% respectively.

People need to be more wary of e-mail attachments and links in order to reverse this shocking trend.

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