NEW YORK -- MessageLabs, a leading provider of integrated messaging and web security services to businesses worldwide, today announced the results of its MessageLabs Intelligence Report for June and the second quarter of 2006. Overall, results showed that spam rates are once again on the rise while cyber threats such as viruses and phishing attacks increasingly shift from traditional methods to more targeted attacks. According to the report, the global ratio of spam in email traffic rose to 64.8 percent in June, an increase of 6.9 percent over the previous month. In addition, the research found a growing trend towards not only a convergence of threats across the different communications channels, such as email, IM and web, but also a merging of the cyber-criminals information gathering and attack techniques, such as spyware, spam, viruses and phishing, as the bad guys seek new and more effective means to exploit their targets.
The increased convergence of threats across email, web, and IM combined with the increased sophistication of techniques is an interesting new development. Today, we see a growing number of emails and IMs containing links to websites where malware or spyware is automatically downloaded, as opposed to the traditional method where the message itself has a piece of malware attached. So, a harmless looking email can quickly become a web threat, said Mark Sunner, chief technology officer, MessageLabs. Just as we once viewed spammers and virus writers as two separate forces, which then rapidly merged, we are now also seeing spyware distribution adding to this mix. For example, we have seen more evidence of spammers employing spyware to make their campaigns more effective. This leaves businesses with the increasingly complex challenge of securing company data and intellectual property without sacrificing important avenues of employee communication.
Spam: In June, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and unknown bad sources was 64.8 percent (1 in 1.54), an increase of 6.9 percent over the previous month. For the quarter, the global spam rate was 60.4 percent, roughly flat compared to the previous quarter, but 7.8 percent below the same period in 2005.
MessageLabs research indicates spammers are increasingly turning to new mediums such as mobile text messaging, Web-based instant messaging, weblogs and social networking communities such as MySpace.com, to bypass email-based anti-spam measures and more effectively target recipients based on their age, location and other characteristics. This trend is a rising cause of concern for IT managers who are attempting to implement greater controls and protect Internet access within their business without resorting to policies that block employees ability to communicate.
Viruses: In June, the global ratio of viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources destined for valid recipients, was 1 in 101 (1 percent), a decrease of 0.5 percent from the previous month. For the quarter, the virus rate was 1 in 68 (1.5 percent), a decrease of 0.7 percent from the quarter prior, and a drop of 1.4 percent compared to the same period in 2005. Despite the downward trend, MessageLabs found an alarming six-fold increase in highly targeted trojan attacks specifically designed to appropriate intellectual property from businesses and organizations. Such attacks, though rare, have risen to approximately one per day compared to one or two per week during the same period in 2005.
Phishing: June showed a decrease of 0.12 percent in the proportion of phishing attacks compared with the previous month, with one in 531 emails (0.19 percent) containing a phishing attack. For the quarter, one in 377.4 emails (0.26 percent) contained a phishing attack, down 0.02 percent from 1 in 356 (0.28 percent) in the quarter prior. In spite of recent declines, however, phishing attacks continue to become more focused as increasing numbers of criminal groups shift their attention from creating malware to phishing. This is evidenced by the quarter-on-quarter increase of 6.5 percent in the proportion of phishing attacks judged as a proportion of all email-borne threats. Phishing emails accounted for 18.6 percent of all malicious emails intercepted by MessageLabs in the second quarter. MessageLabs continues to observe a decline in the scatter-gun approach where emails are sent in large numbers in favor of more subtle, selectively targeted attacks.