June 2011 Spam and Phishing Report

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Click through for results from the June 2011 Symantec Intelligence Report.

Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) recently announced the publication of its June 2011 Symantec Intelligence Report, the first Symantec report to combine the research and analysis from the Symantec.cloud MessageLabs Intelligence Report and the Symantec State of Spam & Phishing Report. This month's analysis reveals that spam is currently at the lowest level it has been since the takedown of McColo, a California-based ISP which hosted command and control channels for a number of major botnets, in November 2008.

Since the shutdown of Rustock, the largest spam-sending botnet, in March 2011, the volume of spam in global circulation each day continues to fluctuate. Spam accounted for 72.9 percent of email in June, returning to the same level as in April earlier this year. According to Symantec Intelligence, 76.6 percent of this spam was sent by botnets, compared with 83.1 percent in March.

“Despite the decrease in botnet spam this month, they should still be considered a dangerous force on the Internet. Cyber criminals continue to use botnets to conduct distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), carry out fraudulent click-thrus on unsuspecting websites for financial gain, host illegal website content on infected computers, harvest personal data from infected users and install spyware to track victims' activities online,” said Paul Wood, senior intelligence analyst, Symantec.cloud.

“Spam remains a huge problem and spam levels continue to be unpredictable. Following the disruption of Rustock in March, approximately 36.9 billion spam emails were in circulation each day during April. This number rose to 41.7 billion in May, before falling back to 39.2 billion in June. During the same period last year, spam accounted for 121.5 billion emails in global circulation each day, equivalent to 89.3 percent of email traffic in June 2010. Over a twelve month period, a drop of 68.7 percent in volume resulted in a fall of only 16.4 percentage points in the overall global spam rate,” added Wood.

In the latest analysis, spam relating to pharmaceutical products accounted for 40 percent of all spam in June 2011, declining from 64.2 percent at the end of 2010. Spam subject line analysis shows that adult spam continues to flourish.

According to the Symantec Intelligence Report, spam messages promoting pharmaceutical products have been the most commonly seen spam attacks in June. Pharmaceutical products are deceptively marketed through spam emails employing a variety of obfuscation techniques. This month’s report highlights the changing nature of the spam-sending botnet landscape and online pharmacy spam using two different angles: a spoof of an online video sharing service and a new online pharmacy brand, perhaps seeking to exploit the popularity of the “wiki” name in a number of high-profile websites.

Last month, Symantec Intelligence also identified a new spam tactic being used, which introduced the “Wiki” name prefix for the promotion of fake pharmaceutical products relating to a new pharmacy brand, WikiPharmacy. The “Subject:” line in these attacks has a lot of randomization contained in the text. The “From:” header is either fake or a hijacked ISP account that gives a personalized appearance to the email.

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