Threat Landscape at Mid-Year’s Point

Sue Marquette Poremba

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is half over, but here we are in July already. Before you know it, security experts will be coming out with their 2014 threat predictions. However, with the first six months of the year behind us, the folks at AppRiver took a look at how 2013’s threat landscape is shaping up.

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Spear Phishing, Targeted Attacks and Data Breach Trends

For its mid-year Global Threatscape Report, AppRiver screened more than 15 billion messages, nearly 13 billion of which were spam and another 171 million that carried viruses. The largest amount of spam is coming from the United States, with Belarus sending out the second-highest amount of spam. So what kind of threats is AppRiver seeing?

Cybercrooks continue to take advantage of major news events in order to spread malware. Fake invoices have also been a popular form of spam – people click on the malware-laden links because they are fooled into thinking they owe money.


The company also saw a rise in Distributed Spam Distraction (DSD), a very highly targeted form of identity fraud. AppRiver security analyst Fred Touchette explained DSD in a release:

In order to hide purchase receipt emails or balance transfer confirmation emails, the attackers, just before they make the illegal transactions, turn on this deluge of spam email in order for these very important emails to get lost in the flood. These fraudulent transactions need to be caught fast so that they can be stopped at the financial institution before they're finalized.

If you notice a deluge of spam in your email inbox, Touchette added, it’s best not to try to monitor your email, but instead go directly to your account(s) activity because the people behind this spam blast have somehow obtained your personal account information and email address.

The biggest software vulnerabilities so far in 2013? Java has been the worst software platform when it comes to hackers getting through exploits. Adobe Flash has also had a number of vulnerability problems in the first half of this year.

And a threat that should surprise no one, mobile malware, has been on the rise, especially as Android takes over iPhones in popularity. According to the report, mobile malware is becoming more like PC-specific malware – turning phones into botnets or spamming users to update or download software that results in malware with financial risks.

The report doesn’t present a threat landscape that is unexpected, although the DSD is something that we may want to keep an eye on. But what the report does confirm, as security analyst Troy Gill pointed out:

The Internet has far evolved beyond a simple means to share information; it is now a tool to be used for nearly anything, good or bad.



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