Category Archives: MessageLabs

Fake URL Shortening Services –Spammers Latest Weapon

imageAccording to Symantec’s May 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, released several days ago, spammers are now employing their own fake URL shortening services to redirect users to the spammer’s Web site. It’s hardly surprising that this new technique has directly contributed to rising spam rates.

MessageLabs Intelligence reports that “shortened links created on these fake URL-shortening sites are not included directly in spam messages. Instead, the spam emails contain shortened URLs created on legitimate URL-shortening sites. These shortened URLs lead to a shortened-URL on the spammer’s fake URL-shortening Web site, which in turn redirects to the spammer’s own Web site.”

Key findings from the May 2011 report include:

Spam: In May 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources increased by 2.9 percentage points since April 2011 to 75.8% (1 in 1.32 emails).

In the US 76.4 percent of email was spam, 75.3 percent in Canada, 75.4 percent in the UK, and 73.9 percent in Australia.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 222.3 emails (0.450 percent) in May, a decrease of 0.143 percentage points since April.

Endpoint Threats: The most frequently blocked malware targeting endpoint devices for the last month was the W32.Ramnit!html, a worm that spreads through removable drives and by infecting executable files.

Phishing: In May, phishing activity was 1 in 286.7 emails (0.349 percent), a decrease of 0.06 percentage points since April.

Web security: Analysis of Web security activity shows that approximately 3,142 Web sites each day were harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, an increase of 30.4 percent since April 2011. 36.8 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in May, an increase of 3.8 percentage points since April. Additionally, 24.6 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in May, an increase of 2.1 percentage points since last month.

The May 2011 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 here.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), can be a major step in expanding the sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

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 control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report – Rustock Goes Down, Bagle Botnet Picks Up The Slack

imageThere’s been much more discussion recently as to whether infected computers should be allowed unrestricted access to the Internet. Despite the fact we’ve been around the horn on this question for years, there’s still little consensus on this thorny issue.

Since infected computers, linked together in botnets, form the backbone of spam distribution networks – according to the March 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, botnets sent an average of 88.2% of global spam during 2010 – this question needs to be taken off the back burner and dealt with much more aggressively.

Frankly, I’m tired of making excuses for people who are too damn lazy, too damn stupid, too damn inconsiderate, ………. to take the time to learn the basics of computer security. And, as a consequence cause me, and you incidentally, to have to deal with volumes of spam that are beyond the pale.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec (Click to expand to original)

According to the March 2011, MessageLabs Intelligence Report (released yesterday), the recently taken down Rustock botnet “had been sending as many as 13.82 billion spam emails daily, accounting for an average of 28.5% of global spam sent from all botnets in March.”

A little math suggests, that during March enough Spam was emailed that conceivably, every person on the Planet received 7 spam emails EVERY DAY! Since every person on the Planet is not connected, the abuse takes on another magnitude. I can’t think of another finite resource – and the Internet is a finite resource – that could be continuously abused in this way, without some kind of strong kickback.

Are we making any headway against botnets and the cyber criminals behind them? Not according to the MessageLabs Intelligence Report we’re not. Sure, Rustock has bitten the dust (at least for the moment), but the Bagle botnet has stepped into the breech, bumped up its output, and is now sending 8.31 billion spam emails each day, mostly tied to pharmaceutical products.

Report highlights:

Spam: In March 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources decreased by 2 percent (1 in 1.26 emails).

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 208.9 emails (0.479 percent) in March, an increase of .134 percentage points since February. In March, 63.4 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of .1 percentage points since February.

Endpoint Threats: The endpoint is often the last line of defense and analysis. The threats found here can shed light on the wider nature of threats confronting businesses, especially from blended attacks. Attacks reaching the endpoint are likely to have already circumvented other layers of protection that may already be deployed, such as gateway filtering.

Phishing: In March, phishing activity was 1 in 252.5 emails (0.396 percent), a decrease of 0.065 percentage points since February.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that an average of 2,973 websites each day were harbouring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware, a decrease of 27.5% since February. 37 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in March, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points since February. Additionally, 24.5 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in March, a decrease of 4.2 percentage points since last month.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

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 control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under bots, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Interconnectivity, MessageLabs, spam, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools

Spam Falls To ONLY 33.5 BILLION Spam Emails Daily – January 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report

imageIf you haven’t gotten an email lately for a “performance” enhancer like Cialis, or Viagra here’s why –

According to Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence Report for January, 2011, pharmaceutical spam recently dropped to 59.1% of all spam – down from it’s all time high of 85% of all spam, back in May 2010. Still, that’s small comfort when you consider that spam currently accounts for 75.7 percent of all email traffic. What a waste of the Internet’s finite resources.

The report points out that “the decline is the result of both a halt in the spam-sending activities of three botnets – Rustock, Lethic and Xarvester – and also unrest among pharmaceutical spam-sending gangs following the closure of pharmaceutical spam affiliate, Spamit”.

This respite however, is likely to be short lived. MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Paul Wood pointed out ‘”there are likely other factors at work, such as consolidation and restructuring of pharmaceutical spam operations ……….  we expect to see more pharmaceutical spam in 2011 as new pharmaceutical spam brands emerge and botnets compete for their business.”

A snapshot of the threat landscape over the last month:

Spam: In January 2011, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 78.6 percent (1 in 1.3 emails), a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since December.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 364.8 emails (0.274 percent) in January, a decrease of .03 percentage points since December. In January, 65.1 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, a decrease of 2.5 percentage points since December.

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 January, phishing activity was 1 in 409.7 emails (0.244 percent), an increase of 0.004 percentage points since December.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 44.1 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in January, an increase of 7.9 percentage points since December. Additionally, 21.8 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in January, a decrease of 3.1 percentage points since last month. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 2,751 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 21.5 percent since December.

Reading this type of report (or at least the highlights), is certainly educational, and can be a major step in expanding that sense of threat awareness that active Internet users’ require.

The full MLI Report is available here in PDF.

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 control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world. Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available at www.symantec.com.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Symantec Hosted Services 2010 Security Report Released

imageLooking back at what we’ve experienced in the past, enhances our ability to look ahead, and as high level computer users’ (the majority of readers on this site), it’s important to try to get a feel for what we’re likely to encounter in the malware threat landscape in the coming year.

Symantec Hosted Services, MessageLabs Intelligence division, has just released it’s annual security report which presents, in some detail, data on the types of diversified attacks we had to content with this past year.

As a precursor of things to come, Symantec predicts that in 2011 – “botnet controllers will resort to employing steganography techniques to control their computers.

This means hiding their commands in plain view – perhaps within images or music files distributed through file sharing or social networking web sites. This approach will allow criminals to surreptitiously issue instructions to their botnets without relying on an ISP to host their infrastructure thus minimizing the chances of discovery”.

If the past is a reasonable predictor of the future, and it’s almost certain that it is, then it we’re in for another rough year.

2010 Report highlights:

Web Security: For 2010, the average number of new malicious websites blocked each day rose to 3,066 compared to 2,465 for 2009, an increase of 24.3 percent. MessageLabs Intelligence identified malicious web threats on 42,926 distinct domains, the majority of which were compromised legitimate domains.

Spam: In 2010 the annual average global spam rate was 89.1 percent, an increase of 1.4 percent on the 2009. In August, the global spam rate peaked at 92.2 percent when the proportion of spam sent from botnets rose to 95 percent as a new variant of the Rustock botnet was seeded and quickly put to use.

Viruses: In 2010, the average rate for malware contained in email traffic was 1 in 284.2 emails (0.352 percent) almost unchanged when compared with 1 in 286.4 (0.349%) for 2009. In 2010, over 115.6 million emails were blocked by Skeptic™ representing an increase of 58.1 percent compared with 2009. There were 339.673 different malware strains identified in the malicious emails blocked. This represents more than a hundred fold increase over 2009 and is due to growth in polymorphic malware variants.

Phishing: In 2010, the average ratio of email traffic blocked as phishing attacks was 1 in 444.5 (0.23 percent), compared with 1 in 325.2 (0.31 percent) in 2009. Approximately 95.1 billion phishing emails were projected to be in circulation in 2010.

Being aware of the shape of the Internet landscape, and the changes that are occurring, or may occur in that landscape, now, more than ever, is a necessity – a prerequisite to protecting yourself and your computer from cybercriminal attack. Forewarned is forearmed, needs to be your guiding light – appropriate knowledge will act as your shield.

Symantec’s latest MessageLabs Intelligence Report is scary stuff, and I encourage you to read this report which will give you some indication of where we’re likely headed, and what we’ll have to deal with.

The annual MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed trends for 2010. The full report is available here.

About Message Labs Intelligence:

Symantec’s Message Labs 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.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Symantec MessageLabs Intelligence October 2010 Report – Targeted Email Attacks On The Rise

imageEven in a world where Internet threats present an ever evolving and increasingly sophisticated danger to businesses, targeted email attacks are the most potent of all – potentially dealing  devastating short and long-term damage to the victims.

Counter to intuitive thinking, a high degree of sophistication gives these low volume, highly personalized emails an edge, and a higher probability of success than mass email blasts.

The goal of targeted attacks is simple – an attempt to gain access to specific sensitive data, intellectual property or confidential internal systems, by targeting specific individuals and companies.

According to Symantec Hosted Services, targeted attacks on the retail sector took a big jump in October, with 25 percent of all targeted attacks directed at this economic sector.

When you consider that in the previous 2 years, less than half of one percent of targeted email attacks were directed at the retail sector – versus the 25% discovered by Symantec Hosted Services in October, it’s evident cyber crooks have a razor sharp focus on the retail sector.

The spam landscape changes constantly, and while your industry sector may not be in the crosshairs currently, given that 200 and 300 organizations are targeted each month with the industry sector varying, it may be only a matter of time.

Knowledge is power, and as computer users we need as much power as we can get in order to stay safe on the Internet, so I encourage you to read the highlights of MessageLabs Intelligence October report, just released today. The full report is available here.

Selected report highlights:

Spam: In October 2010, the global ratio of spam in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was 87.5 percent (1 in 1.4 emails), a decrease of 4.2 percentage points since September.

Viruses: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources was one in 221.9 emails (0.45 percent) in October, an decrease of .01 percentage points since September. In October, 23.1 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, an increase of 15.5 percentage points since September.

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 October, phishing activity was 1 in 488.0 emails (0.20 percent), a decrease of 0.06 percentage points since September.

Web security: Analysis of web security activity shows that 51.3 percent of malicious domains blocked were new in October, an increase of 17.7 percentage points since September. Additionally, 24.7 percent of all web-based malware blocked was new in October, an increase of 2.9 percentage points since last month. MessageLabs Intelligence also identified an average of 2,280 new websites per day harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware, a decrease of 23.9 percent since September.

About Message Labs Intelligence:

Symantec’s Message Labs 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.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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News From Symantec Hosted Services

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We know, only too well, that cyber criminals take advantage of every opportunity that new and emerging technologies provide to expand their trade – data theft.

So, with the huge adoption rate in smart mobile devices, and our increased reliance on these devices (which are literally powerful computers), there is a more pronounced sense of urgency to protect the data stored on these sophisticated mobile devices from the threat of cybercrime.

Symantec Hosted Services, recognizing this need, recently announced enhancements to its MessageLabs Web Security Service roaming support options, that will allow organizations to further support the security needs of their mobile workforce.

According to Symantec – “The new enhancements will monitor and secure the online activity of a highly distributed workforce.  Drawing on findings from the recent MessageLabs Intelligence report highlighting the inappropriate web usage of mobile workers, SmartConnect and RemoteConnect for MessageLabs Hosted Web Security protect against malware, and enforces Web acceptable use policies for teleworkers, or employees, at remote offices.”

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If you’ve noticed a significant drop in Spam in your inboxes lately, like I have, there’s good reason – according to Symantec Hosted Services.

On Sunday, October 3, Symantec Hosted Services noticed that global spam levels dropped to their lowest in a while. Symantec Hosted Services believes this drop was due to a decrease in output by the Rustock and Cutwail botnets.

For additional insight on how Symantec Hosted Services tracked last weekend’s spam drop via sophisticated botnet intelligence, what contribution to global spam each of the major botnets makes, and what factors influence botnet output, check out the MessageLabs  Intelligence blog report here.

About Message Labs Intelligence:

Symantec’s Message Labs 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.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under bots, cell phone, Connected Devices, Email, Enterprise Applications, Malware Reports, MessageLabs, Software, spam, Symantec, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

“Here You Have” Worm Alert – The Incompetents Take The Bait

image In Chapter One of, Internet Security 101, the following is the first point made – “Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin.”

OK, I’m stretching the truth a little, since I don’t actually know of a book with the title “Internet Security 101”. But, the truism “Don’t run files that you receive via email without making sure of their origin”, remains valid.

Despite constant warnings NOT to run this type of file, many users continue to disregard this critical advice. The success of the email delivered “Here you have” worm that clogged email systems on Thursday, despite the usual misspelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors in the email, leaves little doubt.

According to Symantec’s Message Labs Intelligence, the worm is delivered in a  standard email that directs the recipient to click on a link pointing to a malicious file that’s disguised as a PDF. Clicking on the link installs the worm on the victim’s machine.

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Graphic courtesy of Symantec.

Regardless of the fact that the delivery method and the worm itself are not particularly sophisticated, this attack affected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide, and then went on to spread through the following – instant messenger, mapped drives, and email, by taking contacts from the victim’s address book.

While doing the background work on this attack, I came across the following forum comment – “This hit one of our affiliated corporate networks today around 12 pm eastern. It was a mess.”

As one pundit put it – the attack was designed to “prey on the incompetent”. I find it hard to argue with that observation.

For additional information on this scam checkout Malware Operations Engineer Tony Millington’s Blog post over at the Symantec Hosted Services Blog.

About Message Labs Intelligence:

Symantec’s Message Labs 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.

About Symantec:

Symantec is a global leader in providing security, storage and systems management solutions to help consumers and organizations secure and manage their information-driven world.  Our software and services protect against more risks at more points, more completely and efficiently, enabling confidence wherever information is used or stored. More information is available here.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Email, email scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, MessageLabs, Symantec, Windows Tips and Tools, worms