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Spam abates, but poses greater threat: Kaspersky

Traffic falls in Q3 but cyber-criminals take bigger share

Spam abates, but poses greater threat: Kaspersky
The increase in criminal share can be attributed to legitimate advertisers’ migration from spamming.

Kaspersky Lab analysts continue to observe a downward trend in the share of spam in total mail traffic, the company announced today. Compared to the previous quarter, the volume of spam traffic in Q3 2012 decreased by 2.8 percentage points and averaged 71.5%. At the same time, the experts recorded a significant increase in the share of malicious mailings, from 3% to 3.9%, continuing yet another trend for the year.

To some extent, the decline in the share of spam in the third quarter can be accounted for by the traditional business slowdown in summer months, said Kaspersky. However, the downward trend in the amount of spam mailings is also due to the gradual shift of advertising messages from email to other venues such as banner ads, social media, coupon services, and contextual advertising. Therefore, despite a slight burst of post-vacation activity in September, the overall trend of falling spam levels remained.

The migration of advertisers offering legitimate products and services away from spam has inevitably led to an increase in the share of criminal spam containing malicious attachments, adverts for prohibited goods or fraudulent techniques. Q3 2012 once again saw cybercriminals demonstrate their ingenuity, disguising their spam messages as official notifications. Among the fake emails which Kaspersky Lab experts came across were messages allegedly sent from hosting providers, banking systems, social networks, online stores and various other services.

Particular attention was paid to coupon services in Q3, with spammers taking advantage of their popularity to distribute malicious links and attachments. The prominent coupon service Groupon appeared to bear the brunt: emails designed to look like official notifications and new offers redirected unwitting recipients to a malicious online resource with exploits.

There were a number of changes in the regional breakdown of spam sources in the third quarter of 2012. Among those countries sending out most spam, the US showed considerable growth, pushing the North American region’s share up to just over 27%. This was sufficient to claim second place behind traditional leader Asia, with the latter responsible for almost half of all spam mailings throughout the world (49.5%). Western Europe (6.86%) pushed past Eastern Europe (3.64%) and took fourth place, catching up with Latin America (7.34%) in third.

“The migration of advertisers from spam to other venues is due in part to the increasing criminalisation of spam, with a large number of advertisements for prohibited goods, as well as fraudulent and malicious emails,” said Darya Gudkova, head of Content Analysis & Research, Kaspersky Lab.

“Over the past year, Kaspersky Lab experts have observed two trends in parallel: a decrease in the percentage of spam and a slight rise in the percentage of malicious mailings. More likely than not, both trends will continue, as the percentage of spam is on the decline due to the migration of advertisers of legitimate goods and services to other venues.”

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