Malware and Spam On the Rise In 2012

If it seems your email inbox is getting cluttered with spam again, its not your imagination. A German technology security firm says unwelcome or dangerous e-mails were on the rise again in the first half of 2012.

The company, called Eleven, said it documented a clear jump in the second quarter in particular: the bottom line shows 54.8 percent more spam, 52.4 percent more identified malware, and 90 percent more virus outbreaks.

In contrast, phishing e-mails saw an increase particularly in the first quarter, when their growth rate jumped by 169.6 percent. Measured against total e-mail volume spam had an average share of 70.8 percent in the first six months of 2012. On June 29, the heaviest spam day of the year until now, its share jumped to 89.2 percent.

The second main trend of the first half of 2012 was the rise in spam, phishing, and malware campaigns targeted to a specific country, customers of a regional banking institution or the users of specific services. What set this apart was a clearly limited recipient area, credible content, high language quality, and Websites that are almost perfect copies of the originals. In other words, more sophisticated perpetrators.

In the first six months of 2012, Eleven registered phishing campaigns against customers of Amazon Germany and Deutsche Postbank, as well as PayPal users. Malware campaigns disguised themselves as phony mobile telephone bills, postal notification slips, and tax notifications.

Valentines Day and Mother's Day in the U.S. were highpoints of spam activity. Most recently Euro 2012 and the run-up to the Olympic games in London have been marked by phishing campaigns. The most popular trick in both cases: phony ticket lotteries requesting bank account and credit card data.

The spam and malware are back, Eleven says, because spammers are recovering from the law enforcement efforts that shut many of them down in 2011. After the Rustock botnet was shut down in March 2011, the volume of spam coming from Western countries was reduced to a trickle.

For several months, they did not place on the top ten spam senders list at all. But in the second quarter of 2012 in particular, the volume of spam from these countries was clearly on the rise, Eleven says.

And in the first six months of this year, the U.S. was back on the list in sixth place, reaching fith in June alongside Germany in third and the United Kingdom in eighth.

India, meanwhile, remains the number one country for generating email-delivered spam and malware.


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