Email Malware Increases 400% Since Rustock Takedown

Wednesday, April 13, 2011



Analysis released by security provider Commtouch reveals that the instances of malware attacks utilizing emailed spam messages increased dramatically in the last week of March.

While the takedown of the Rustock Botnet last month caused overall spam levels to dropped by 30%, the prevalence of spam emails containing malware has since jumped by 400%.

"The first quarter of 2011 was also witness to a broad range of attempts to distribute malware, and raised malware levels overall. These attempts included malware sent through Facebook chat, or which used other wellknown brand-names such as T-Online and Xerox," the report states.

At the peak of the the trend, nearly one in every three emails sent contained a malware attachment, as detailed in the following graphic produced by Commtouch:


According to HelpNet Security, the first three months of 2011 were witness to a range of varied attempts to distribute malware:

  • Mass mailings of “parcel tracking information” purporting to come from UPS and DHL accounted for 30% of all emails sent during the peak of the outbreak
  • Facebook chat messages from compromised user accounts led to phony Facebook applications and ultimately virus files
  • PDF files with embedded script malware mimicked Xerox scanned documents
  • The “Kama Sutra” virus tempted recipients with an explicit PowerPoint presentation
  • T-Online’s personal homepage feature was abused to redirect visitors to fake antivirus downloads.
Additional highlights noted by HelpNet from the April 2011 Trend Report include:
  • Spam levels averaged 149 billion spam/phishing messages per day during Q1, compared to the 142 billion spam/phishing messages per day in Q4 2010 and 198 billion in Q3 2010.
  • Approximately 258,000 zombies were activated daily during Q1, a decrease compared to the 288,000 zombies in Q4 2010 and 339,000 during Q3 2010.
  • The most popular spam topic in Q1 was again pharmacy ads representing 28% of all spam, down from 42% in Q4 2010.
  • India keeps its title for the third quarter in a row as the country with the most zombies – 17% of all zombies worldwide.
  • Parked domains were the website category most likely to contain malware.
  • Streaming media/downloads continues to be the most popular topic for blog creators in the Web 2.0 sphere of user-generated content, with 21% of the generated content.
The full Commtouch threat report can be found HERE.
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