Spam falls to lowest rate since March 2009
Spam now accounts for 78.6% of all email traffic
Symantec has revealed in its MessageLabs Intelligence report that spam has fallen to its lowest rate since March 2009 and now accounts for 78.6% of all email traffic, in March 2009 the global spam rate was 75.7% of all email traffic.
Volumes of spam in circulation in January 2011 were 65.9% lower than for the same period in January 2010 when spam accounted for 83.9% of all email traffic. The events in Egypt recently have also severely affected spam rates due to a complete cut-off of internet communications. Historically, Egypt has accounted for around 0.1% of spam in terms of country of origin; therefore Symantec doesn't predict an increase in spam.
Recent declines in spam levels can be attributed to a halt in the spam-sending activities of three botnets - Rustock, Lethic and Xarvester - and also unrest among pharmaceutical spam-sending gangs.
Between 25th December and 1st January, spam volumes declined 58% from 80.2 billion spam emails per day to 33.5 billion spam emails each day.
"The closure of spam affiliate, Spamit, was partially responsible for the disruption to spam output," said MessageLabs Intelligence senior analyst, Paul Wood, Symantec. "However, there are likely other factors at work, such as consolidation and restructuring of pharmaceutical spam operations which has led to instability in the market likely to be exploited as a business opportunity by other spam gangs. We expect to see more pharmaceutical spam in 2011 as new pharmaceutical spam brands emerge and botnets compete for their business."
May 2010 saw the highest peaks of pharmaceutical spam, when up to 85% of spam was related to pharmaceutical products. In January 2011, MessageLabs Intelligence found that pharmaceutical spam accounted for about 59.1% of all spam.
According to the MessageLabs report, in 2010, spam-sending botnets were responsible for as much as 88% of the world's spam falling to 77% by the end of the year.
The Rustock botnet had been responsible for 47.5% of all spam, approximately 44.1 billion spam emails each day, making it the single, largest spam-sending botnet. Both Lethic and Xarvester accounted for less than 0.5% of all spam each.
"At various points during Rustock's history, the botnet has often exhibited irregular spamming patterns by sending huge volumes of spam before going quiet for several weeks at a time," Wood said. "But throughout 2010, its spamming pattern was more regular and it had been active non-stop until December 2010. Our investigation revealed no evidence of Rustock being disrupted in any way either by law enforcement or through other action."
All three botnets have now resumed spamming activity and Bagle botnet has taken over as the single largest spam botnet, while Rustock is now the largest sender of pharmaceutical spam.
According to MessageLabs, during the two weeks that Rustock was dormant, it was being used for click-fraud to generate fake referrals for click-through expenses.