11:53 AM

Researchers Link Most Spam To Only 50 ISPs

Discovery that spammers are using only a relative handful of Internet providers suggests new ways of stopping botnets.

How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions

Only 50 Internet service providers (ISPs) host the majority of the world's spam, according to a new study, and that finding could reshape private and public approaches to combating the botnets that infect computers and then use them as spam mailers.

The study was conducted for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) by researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Michigan State University, who examined 109 billion spam messages from 170 million unique IP addresses, gathered via a "spam trap" from 2005 to 2009.

One major finding is that where there's spam, you'll find an infected -- aka zombie -- machine. That's because according to the study data, on average 80% to 90% of the world's spam comes from infected machines.

Researchers also found that the 33 member countries that comprise the OECD, as well as Estonia, the Russian Federation, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and South Africa, "harbor over 60% of all infected machines worldwide registered by the spam trap." In other words, the majority of infected machines aren't laying low in countries nearly off the grid.

But perhaps the biggest surprise, said the researchers, was that "we discovered that infected machines display a highly concentrated pattern." In particular, "the networks of just 50 ISPs account for around half of all infected machines worldwide." In other words, "the bulk of the infected machines are not located in the networks of obscure or rogue ISPs, but in those of established, well-known ISPs."

The results suggest a formidable new way to block botnets. With a caution that historical data is no guarantee of future botnet behavior, the researchers said that "current efforts to bring about collective action -- through industry self-regulation, co-regulation, or government intervention -- might initially achieve progress by focusing on the set of ISPs that together have the lion's share of the market."

In other words, if policymakers want to maximize their bang for buck, start by improving the security practices of the 50 ISPs that host half the world's spam.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest September 7, 2015
Some security flaws go beyond simple app vulnerabilities. Have you checked for these?
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
Published: 2015-10-08
** REJECT ** DO NOT USE THIS CANDIDATE NUMBER. ConsultIDs: none. Reason: This candidate was withdrawn by its CNA. Further investigation showed that it was not a security issue. Notes: none.

Published: 2015-10-08
Cybozu Garoon 3.x through 3.7.5 and 4.x through 4.0.3 mishandles authentication requests, which allows remote authenticated users to conduct LDAP injection attacks, and consequently bypass intended login restrictions or obtain sensitive information, by leveraging certain group-administration privile...

Published: 2015-10-08
The REST interface in Cisco Unified Communications Manager IM and Presence Service 11.5(1) allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (SIP proxy service restart) via a crafted HTTP request, aka Bug ID CSCuw31632.

Published: 2015-10-08
Cisco Wireless LAN Controller (WLC) devices with software 7.0(240.0), 7.3(101.0), and 7.4(1.19) allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (device outage) by sending malformed 802.11i management data to a managed access point, aka Bug ID CSCub65236.

Published: 2015-10-06
libstagefright in Android before 5.1.1 LMY48T allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (memory corruption) via a crafted media file, aka internal bug 21335999.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
What can the information security industry do to solve the IoT security problem? Learn more and join the conversation on the next episode of Dark Reading Radio.