Symantec Hosted Services Report Reveals Security Threats Of Increasingly Mobile Workforce

One-third of distributed workforce exhibit potentially harmful Web browsing habits

September 22, 2010

6 Min Read


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – September 21, 2010– Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC) today announced the publication of its September 2010 MessageLabs Intelligence Report. Analysis reveals that 35 percent of remote and office-based workers who use the MessageLabs Hosted Web Security Service are more likely to trigger a web site block based on corporate policy infringement when on the road rather than in the office. The finding highlights the importance of implementing acceptable usage policies to prevent employees from visiting web sites that may be harmful, offensive or illegal. Overall, web-based malware accounted for 1 in 1,807 of the website traffic blocks triggered for remote workers, compared with 1 in 322 for office-based workers.

MessageLabs Intelligence investigated the most frequently blocked policy categories comparing office-bound and roaming workers and found that blocks for the Downloads category are 5.4 times more likely to be triggered by mobile workers. Likewise, Shopping, Search Engines and Personals& Dating categories are all more frequently blocked for workers outside the office than those who are inside while blocks on Adult/Sexually Explicit content was more likely to be attempted from the workplace.

“In general, more policy blocks overall are triggered by workers when they are out of the office, indicating rather intuitively that users are more compliant with usage policies when in the office,” said Paul Wood, MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst. “More than one-third of workers that are both remote and desk-based trigger a greater number of policy blocks when they are out of the office perhaps taking the opportunity to visit a greater variety of websites than they would when at their desks.”

Earlier this month, many email users around the world were caught off guard by an email with the subject line “Here You Have” in their inboxes. The “Here You Have” virus did not deploy new tactics but rather used social engineering techniques to spread through email and also spread by copying itself from networked drives to removable drives.

“The ‘Here You Have’ virus was an email-borne virus that made use of the more traditional mass-mailer techniques,” Wood said. “MessageLabs Hosted Email AntiVirus service stopped all copies of this attack in the cloud, based on a heuristic rule developed in May 2008 thus preventing it from reaching our clients.”

While the attack used older techniques, the social engineering aspect of using genuine email addresses sent to recipients with whom the sender may have done business or may know personally, added legitimacy and credibility to the attack.

Other report highlights:

Spam: In September 2010, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 91.9 percent (1 in 1.09 emails), a decrease of 0.3 percentage points since August.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 218.7 emails (0.46 percent) in September, an increase of 0.15 percentage points since August. In September, 7.6 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of 13.6 percentage points since August.

Endpoint Threats: Threats against endpoint devices such as laptops, PCs and servers may penetrate an organization in a number of ways, including drive-by attacks from compromised websites, Trojan horses and worms that spread by copying themselves to removable drives. Analysis of the most frequently blocked malware for the last month revealed that the Sality.AE virus was the most prevalent. Sality.AE spreads by infecting executable files and attempts to download potentially malicious files from the Internet.

Phishing: In September, phishing activity was 1 in 382.0 emails (0.26 percent) a decrease of 0.01 percentage points since August.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 33.6 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in September, a decrease of 0.7 percentage points since August. Additionally, 21.8% of all web-based malware blocked was new in September; an increase of 8.9 percentage points since last month. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 2,997 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 10.8 percent since August.

Geographical Trends:

Hungary remained at the top of the list of the most spammed countries with a spam rate of 96 percent, down 0.3 percentage points from August.

In the US, 92.1 percent of email was spam and 91.5 percent in Canada. Spam levels in the UK were 91.7 percent.

In the Netherlands, spam accounted for 93.1 percent of email traffic, while spam levels reached 92.8 percent in Germany, 93.9 percent in Denmark and 91.2 percent in Australia.

Spam levels in Hong Kong reached 92.7 percent and 90.3 percent in Singapore. Spam levels in Japan were at 90.0 percent and 93.8 percent in China. In South Africa, spam accounted for 90.8 percent of email traffic.

South Africa was the most targeted by email-borne malware with 1 in 99.2 emails blocked as malicious in September.

In the UK, 1 in 117.5 emails contained malware. In the US virus levels were 1 in 403.9 and 1 in 281.3 for Canada. In Germany, virus levels reached 1 in 282.0, 1 in 268.6 in Denmark, 1 in 399.3 for the Netherlands.

In Australia, 1 in 390.8 emails were malicious and, 1 in 238.4 for Hong Kong, for Japan it was 1 in 698.8 compared with 1 in 644.9 for Singapore.

Vertical Trends:

In September, the most spammed industry sector with a spam rate of 94.1 percent continued to be the Automotive sector.

Spam levels for the Education sector were 92.9 percent, 92.4 percent for the Chemical & Pharmaceutical sector, 92.0 percent for IT Services, 92.4 percent for Retail, 91.6 percent for Public Sector and 90.9 percent for Finance.

In September, Government/Public Sector remained the most targeted industry for malware with 1 in 35.8 emails being blocked as malicious.

Virus levels for the Chemical & Pharmaceutical sector were 1 in 199.7, 1 in 240.8 for the IT Services sector, 1 in 412.0 for Retail, 1 in 156.3 for Education and 1 in 391.2 for Finance.

The September 2010 MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all of the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed geographical and vertical trends. The full report is available at

Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from our control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

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