Tag Archives: spam

671 Percent Increase in Malicious Web Sites

Malicious websites grew 233% in the last six months and 671% in the last year, stares Websense Security Labs. This was partly because of the spread  Gumblar, Beladen and Nine Ball attacks which aimed to compromise trusted and known Web sites.

Web 2.0 sites are the worst effected target as 95% of blog comments, chat rooms and message boards are malicious.

“The last six months have shown that malicious hackers and fraudsters go where the people are on the Web” said Websense Chief Technology Officer Dan Hubbard “and have heightened their attacks on popular Web 2.0 sites.”

The top 100 most visited Web properties, which are “Social Networking” or “Search” sites states Websense.

77% of sites with malicious code are legitimate sites have been compromised by fraudsters exploiting the inherent trust in a business.

61 percent of the top 100 sites either hosted malicious content or contained a masked redirect to lure unsuspecting victims to malicious sites.

The term ”malicious” typically refers to links that have specific, hidden exploits that target a user’s computer.

The next million most visited sites are primarily current event and news sites and are more regionaland genre-focused.

37 percent of malicious Web attacks included data-stealing code, 57 percent of data-stealing attacks are conducted over the web in the first half of 2009.

85.6% of all unwanted emails contained links to spam and/or malicious Web sites and 57% of data-stealing attacks are conducted over the Web. In June virus infected emails rose 600% over May.

An analysis of Web, email and data security trends during the first half of 2009 are explored in the Websense Security Labs bi-annual “State of Internet Security” report.

Daily Websense® Security Labs™ Websense ThreatSeeker™ Network parses more than one billion pieces

of content and over 40 million websites hourly for malicious code and ten million emails. The Websense ThreatSeeker Network uses more than 50 million real-time data collecting systems.

YouTube and BlogSpot are 65 percent to 75 percent ineffective in protecting Web users from objectionable content and security risks. Hate or militant content on Facebook and other popular Web 2.0 sites like YouTube, Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups.

Cyber terrorism (militancy and extremists Web sites)  increased 326 percent increase in increased 326% from January through May 2009 over the same period in 2008.

Websense tracks about15,000 hate and militancy sites, with 1,000 added in he first six months of this year.

78 percent of new Web pages discovered in the first half of 2009 with objectionable content (e.g. Sex, Adult Content, Gambling, Drugs)  and  69 percent of all Web pages with any objectionable content link served malicious content.

Sex, advertisements, business and economy, IT, and travel made up the most commonly

compromised categories of Web content. 50 percent of Web pages with a link categorized as “Sex” also have at least one malicious link.

The three most popular topics for spam remained shopping (28 percent), cosmetics (18.4 percent) and

medical (11.9 percent.)  However, over the last six months, education accounted 9.5 percent of spam.

and could be attributed to the recession.

“Spammers have been targeting the unemployed who are looking to re-train or gain qualifications to help their job prospects” states Websense.

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Phishing Scams and your bank

phishing

“Your information security program is only as strong as your weakest link” said  Linda McGlasson of Bank Info Security.

“That weakest link is your customer or your employee sitting at a screen, deciding whether to click on that link that popped up in their instant messaging screen, or direct message box on Twitter, or visit that site that offers free ringtones (and malware as a bonus).“

Recently 10 US financial institutions in California, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin receiving fraudulent text messages or automated phone calls.

On September 28, 2009, the 1st Federal Credit Union of central Pennsylvania reported that it received calls from customers about text messages claiming that their cards were blocked.

Similarly on October 2 phishers sent text messages to mobile phones in the Omaha area, claiming their bank card had been deactivated. Inclded were instructions to call an 877 number to reactivate it. At least one customer lost several hundred dollars.

“Once he changed his PIN, somebody went in and withdrew the money,” said Richard Patterson, president of Greater Omaha Federal Credit Union.

A very convincing automated phone call phishing scam directly named the Liberty Bank.

“Your card has been suspended because we believe it was accessed by a third party. Please press 1 now to be transferred to our security department” the recording, before liting an impressive array of details designed to sound official.

Customers who pressed “1” were asked to enter their credit/debit card number and personal identification number.

“There will be some losses,” Liberty Bank Vice President Jill Hitchman said. “Charges started showing up almost immediately after our customers gave away their card numbers.”

Of course, Liberty responsibly warns its customers to “never reply to email, pop-up messages or phone callers that ask for your personal or financial information. LIBERTY BANK WILL NEVER ask you to disclose your password or pin”.

Spam works because about one out of six respond to messages suspect are spam survey data by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, an anti-spam trade organization (MAAWG).

A record five million new malware threats were detected in third quarter of 2009 according to the Cloud Security firm, Panda Security. Trojans accounted for 71 percent of all new malware between July and September 2009s bots and other malware are morphing rapidly.

Globally 59% of computers are infected  states Panda.

Obviously we need to keep our viral security up to date. This is why Bank Info Security recommends regular, preferably quarterly, programs to remind their customers of secure banking practices.

The problem is that people are the weakest lin. Even normally cautious people may once in a while press a link they normally would ignore.

Since, most of us are not rocket scientists perhaps give oursleves a reality check. Perhaps we should put ourselves through a similar audit of our email and web habits.

People need to be trained to obtain a drivers license so perhaps we need to begin to train people in the rules of internet safety said Linda McGlasson.

She suggests the first very basic tips:

  • Keep your operating system up to date with the latest patches;
  • Update your anti-virus and anti-spyware regularly, if not daily;
  • Install a firewall on your PC;
  • Don’t click on links in emails that are from unknown origins (or known origins for that matter).

Malware Pandemic

A record five million new malware threats were detected in third quarter of 2009 according to the Cloud Security firm, Panda Security.
Trojans accounted for 71 percent of all new malware between July and September 2009. Adware (13 percent) and spyware (9 percent) have also all increased, while traditional viruses and worms have decreased to 2 percent of the total.

SAdly, thw weak lin is still the individual user who fails to apply basic net safety rules or applies commonsense when an impressive sounding phishing scam asks for bank details.

malware detected

PandaLabs has recorded five million new strains of malware. Most of these were banker Trojans, although adware and spyware have also increased.

“Spyware has increased for the first time this year, rising from 6.90% to 9.16%. Adware however has decreased slightly from 16.37% to 13.13%, yet it was still the second most detected malware category this year” according to the quarterly report.
“We currently receive approximately 50,000 new samples of malware every day, compared to 37,000 just a few months ago. There is no reason to believe that the situation will improve in the coming months,” explains Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs.
There has been a marked increase in malware distributed through spam, social networks and search engine optimization techniques, which draw users to spoof Web pages where malware is downloaded. These exploit topical issues like swine flu, Independence Day, forest fires or Presidential speeches by Barack Obama.
“There is a false sense of security, as users perceive there to be no real danger at the moment. When their computers get infected, they rarely notice any symptoms” said According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, According to Panda’s U.S. computers are infected by the most dangerous malware strains: Trojans, followed by adware, worms and viruses.
The global infection rate on computers rose to 59% states Panda Security. Taiwan has the most infected PCs, with a 69.10 percent corruption, followed by Russia and China at 67.99 percent and 61.97 percent, respectively. U.S. ranks ninth with an infection ratio of 58.25. The country with the least infections is Norway at 39.60 percent.

“Spyware has increased for the first time this year, rising from 6.90% to 9.16%. Adware however has decreased slightly from 16.37% to 13.13%, yet it was still the second most detected malware category this year” according to the quarterly report.
“We currently receive approximately 50,000 new samples of malware every day, compared to 37,000 just a few months ago. There is no reason to believe that the situation will improve in the coming months,” explains Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs.
There has been a marked increase in malware distributed through spam, social networks and search engine optimization techniques, which draw users to spoof Web pages where malware is downloaded. These exploit topical issues like swine flu, Independence Day, forest fires or Presidential speeches by Barack Obama.
“There is a false sense of security, as users perceive there to be no real danger at the moment. When their computers get infected, they rarely notice any symptoms” said According to Luis Corrons, Technical Director of PandaLabs, According to Panda’s U.S. computers are infected by the most dangerous malware strains: Trojans, followed by adware, worms and viruses.
“This is a clear sign that hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated,” said Corrons.
“Cybercriminals have found news ways to spread their creations, frequently exploiting the latest news stories to launch attacks through social networks, videos, and email. The huge amount of Trojans in circulation is due to the spectacular increase in the number of banker Trojans aimed at stealing user data.”
The global infection rate on computers rose to 59% states Panda Security.  Taiwan has the most infected PCs, with a 69.10 percent corruption, followed by Russia and China at 67.99 percent and 61.97 percent, respectively. U.S. ranks ninth with an infection ratio of 58.25. The country with the least infections is Norway at 39.60 percent.

infected PCs

Why Does Spam Work?

The cost of spam

Spam works because about one out of six respond to messages suspect are spam survey data by the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group, an anti-spam trade organization (MAAWG).

Although, about 17% admitted it was a mistake, curiosity seems to play into the hands of spammers. Twelve percent were interested in the product or service, and 13% don’t know why they acted on the message. Six percent “wanted to see what would happen.”

The survey of 800 people in the U.S. and Canada who admitted they were not ‘internet experts’ about 80 percent of users doubted their computers were at risk of ever being infected with a “bot.” This is alarming as covertly planted viruses capable of sending spam are responsible for generating much of today’s illegitimate email.

The problem is not limited to email spam. In a recent banking phishing spam atcacking LibertyBank, an automated phone message claimed”Your card has been suspended because we believe it was accessed by a third party. Please press 1 now to be transferred to our security department.”

Customers who pressed “1” were asked to enter their credit/debit card number and personal identification number. Sadly people fell for it.

“Spamming has morphed from an isolated hacker playing with some code into a well-developed underground economy that feeds off reputable users’ machines to avoid detection” said MAAWG Chair Michael O’Reirdan.

“Consumers shouldn’t be afraid to use email, but they need to be computer smart and learn how to avoid these problems.”

“Bots, or malware running on users’ computers without their knowledge, are responsible for generating up to 90 percent of spam and can also be used to steal personal information or take part in DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks” states MAAWG.  cmsconnect.com  estimates the lost time to be nearly 50 hours per employee and almost $1000 per person per year.

Spam is now major bandwidth gobbling headache for service providers and the growing problem of bot infestations contributing to spam, identity theft and online fraud.

No longer is a spammer the seedy lone money grabbing sneak hiding in the attic. In 2007 “a flood of junk messages was thrown at the e-mail server of the [Estonian] Parliament, shutting it down.” This is why a CMS white paper reccommended country of origin email filtering to reduce spam 50-80%.

As spammers use automated systems to constantly collect email addresses, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year it sometimes seems you are doomed to receive a pile of email 95% promoting MLM and the rest suggesting have such a low IQ that you will give your bank details to a non entity at the north pole.

“Spam is also getting globalised as Brazil, Russia, India and China are among the biggest emerging broadband markets worldwide and as such offer a tremendous opportunity for cybercrime ” states Emirates Business 24/7.

Most  users are familiar with general email-based threats but not necessarily proactively protecting themselves sufficiently.

How will we stop spam when we are such easy targets? Even though 12% claimed they were “very” or “somewhat” experienced with Internet security opened spam before deleting it, while 11% called themselves inexperienced who also opened spam.

Two-thirds used the sender’s name to gauge whether a mail was spam, 45% looked at the subject line and 22% use “visual indicators.” About 3% relied on the time a message was sent to judge if it was legitimate.

About two-thirds considered themselves “very” or “somewhat” knowledgeable in Internet security. While most consumers use anti-virus software and over half said they never click on suspected spam, the survey also found that 21 percent take no preventative anti spam measures.

Yet, 12% of respondents who indicated they were “very” or “somewhat” experienced with Internet security opened spam before deleting it, compared with only 11% of respondents who called themselves inexperienced who did the same.

63 percent would allow their network operator or anti-virus vendor to remotely access their computer to remove detected bots.

Industry analyst Ferris Research, Inc., suggested network operators offer remote bot mitigation capabilities to differentiate their services from competitors. They also suggest refining spam filters based on the specific patterns revealed by the study.

For example, the MAAWG survey found that users between the ages of 24 and 44 are more likely to use email for banking and bill statements, so industry vendors might focus on preventing phishing spam for these consumers.

To combat bot infestations has released a series of strategies used by some of the largest ISP network operators or Common Best Practices for Mitigating Large Scale Bot Infections in Residential Networks (Version 1.0).

The report recommends:

  • While protecting users’ privacy, network operators can use tools to detect infected end-user computers, including DNS, scanning the IP space to identify vulnerable computers, and collecting IP traffic information for known command and control addresses.
  • Email, phone calls to customers, postal mail and walled gardens are common notification tools.. In-browser messages are considered to be among the most effective methods to alert customers but also can be technically challenging to implement.
  • ISPs need to maintain a well-publicized security portal that includes directions for end-user bot removal.

“Bots are a global affliction and these best practices are an important step in educating the industry on the appropriate processes to help protect consumers” said Michael O’Reirdan.

“We’re sharing the experiences of our global membership so that network operators everywhere can more aggressively tackle this problem”

Spam Alert

stance against spam

“Even in challenging economic times, spammers continue to plague businesses with unprecedented levels of unsolicited mail and push them to spend valuable bandwidth and resources on dealing with spam,” said MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Symantec, Paul Wood.

“For Australian businesses, more than ninety percent of all emails are now unwanted, however as email is the prime communication channel for businesses today, keeping email secure and functional is critical to business success.”

In the Sydney suburb of Auburn, spam levels reached 94.1%, making it Australia’s most spammed suburb.

In Australia, the most spammed areas have higher density of small-to-medium sized businesses. The least effected have the largest companies.

World wide, Sophos discovers 23,500 new infected webpages every day. That’s one every 3.6 seconds, four times worse than in 2007.

“15 new bogus anti-virus vendor websites are discovered every day” states Sophos. .”This number has tripled, up from an average of five detected per day, during 2008”.

“Financially motivated cybercriminals are turning their attention to Web 2.0 platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and alternative programs and tools such as Adobe Flash and PDFs.”

Between four million and six million computers worldwide  the globe have been compromised without the user’s knowledge states MessageLabs Intelligence.

“These computers now form robotic networks – Botnets, which are controlled by cybercriminals and used to send out more than 87% of all unsolicited mail, equating to approximately 151 billion emails a day.

89.7% of business email is spam. In September, globally the spam rate is 86.4%, Australia’s spam rate is 90.7%.

“Spammers have preferred professions, with the Engineering and Education sector being top targets globally with spam levels reaching more than 93%” states MessageLabs Intelligence.

In Australia  Healthcare has a  93.5% spam rate, Wholesale 92.1%, Minerals/Fuel 91.0%,  Professional Services 90.9%

Communication enhancing and information gathering technology has given hackers opportunities to attack businesses.

Sophos receives 40,000 unique suspicious files every day — accounting for 28 unique files every minute, 24 hours a day. Independent testing agency, AV-Test.org, currently counts over 22.5 million unique samples of malware in its collection — compared to 12.3 million in June 2008, demonstrating that the scale of the problem has almost doubled.

spam mailing list

The importance of good email security is highlighted by the spread of botnet infections.

“Botnets are now responsible for distributing 87.9% of all spam” states MessageLabs Intelligence.

“Approximately 151 billion unsolicited messages each day being distributed by compromised computers.

MessageLabs lists a number of ISP’s that were closed for hosting botnet activity: September 20, 2008 California Intercage (California) followed shortly after by McColo (California). After which “spam originating from Srizbi, Rustock and Mega-D all took a nosedive. Until then, Srizbi had been responsible for as much as 50% of all global spam”

Following the demise of these ISPs in 2008, additional ISPs were taken down as recently In June Pricewert in the U.S and on August 1,2009, Real Host in Latvia, were closed.

The take-down of Real Host saw spam levels temporarily drop by 38% according to Messagelabs.

“Real host was believed to have hosted the command-and-control centres of the Cutwail botnet (also known as Pandex or Pushdo), which is responsible for about 15 to 20 per cent of the spam sent out worldwide” states the virus bulletin.

Typically websites whose sole purpose is to distribute malware arereached through redirection scripts and links from other legitimate websites, such as links posted on social networking websites, malicious or compromised banner advertising, hyperlinks posted in spam emails and hyperlinks shared over instant messaging traffic” states messagelabs.

“The typical profile of these sites indicates that they have been registered up to three months before first being blocked for hosting malicious content.” It is no surprise that Google ranks domains registered for more than a year more favourably.

“A relatively large proportion of them (approximately 29%) are taken down after just one day; 40% are removed within two days; and 65% within one week. Generally, 90% of “young” malicious domains are taken down within 38 days.”

To enhance the effectiveness of their short term web life URL-shortening services have been exploited and account for more than 9% of all spam.

However, MessageLabs Intelligence states, “80 percent of domains being blocked as malicious for serving up malware are in fact compromised, legitimate websites”. Removing a young obviously malicious server is relatively easy so it is obvious why a spammer would like to compromise an established site.

How To Stop Spam?

Protect your email address – Be careful where you use your primary email address on the net.

Watch out for the checkboxes –opt out of being contacted by third parties as you don’t know who will get your email address.

Don’t use the reply, remove or forward options – Using these features tells a spammer you are real and validates your email address.

Use an unusual name – An email address with numbers or is less likely to receive spam.

“Spammers often use directories of common names to guess email addresses” states MessageLabs.

Avoid clicking on any links in spam messages – the addresses of links are frequently disguised intending to confirm your existence to spammers. This can also include the unsubscribe links.

Avoid downloading pictures in spam email – Even in the preview pane pictures these can identify you. Block images, or view emails in text format.

Use a Good spam filter – Stop it from getting into your inbox in the first place.

According to the virus bulletin released September 21, Alwil‘s avast!, BitDefender, ESET‘s NOD32, F-Secure, G DATA, MicroWorld‘s eScan and Symantec‘s Norton were top achievers at detecting malicious samples, rated the highest ranking of ‘Advanced+’..

Tested with two sets of malicious samples, split into two sets with one containing sample representing the last 7 months, and the other the preceding twelve months.  The results are balanced against false positives.

Ranking highly in the ‘Advanced’ classification were AVG, Avira, Kaspersky, McAfee and Trustport. Avira, McAfee and Trustport had high detection rates but ranked lower because of  false alarms.

Microsoft‘s solution, rated as ‘Standard’, Kingsoft, Norman and Sophos ranked only ‘Tested’  Sophos‘ scored low because of a relatively high false positive rate, sated the Virus Bulletin.