2006: The Year Spam Raised Its Game; 2007 Predictions

A new report highlights the escalation of spam activity throughout 2006, with annual average spam levels reaching 86.2%, and spam overtaking viruses as the dominant menace over the last twelve months, a trend which is predicted to continue through 2007, according to 2006 Annual MessageLabs Intelligence Report

2006 was the year that spammers took the security industry by storm and showcased their new tactics and techniques for mass disruption, according to MessageLabs. Spam now accounts for almost 9 out of 10 emails 

Top Trends in 2006:

Spam: In 2006 the annual average spam rate was 86.2 percent, with botnets responsible for 80 percent of all spam in circulation. 

Viruses: The annual average virus rate in 2006 was 1 in 67.9, a significant drop from 1 in 36.2 in 2005.

Phishing: Phishing attacks grew this year with the 2006 average phishing rate reaching 1 in every 274.2 emails. Phishing attacks accounted for 24.8 percent of all malicious emails intercepted by MessageLabs in 2006, rising from 10.6 percent in January to 68.6 percent by the end of the year. This is an increase from only 13.1 percent in 2005, marking a huge shift in cyber criminal activity.

Geographic Trends: Israel had the highest average spam rate overall for 2006 with 73.2 percent, a position held jointly by the US and Canada in 2005. 

Vertical/Industry Trends: Business Support Services has been bombarded with virus and spam attacks in 2006, the annual virus rate reaching 9.26 percent and average spam rate of 60.9 percent. 

10 Predictions for 2007:

  1. MessageLabs security experts predict that 2007 will be the year of true convergence, between spam, viruses and spyware and also across business communication protocols, a trend that started to appear in 2006.
  2. Virus rates will continue to fall, as they have become unnecessary in the creation of botnets. MessageLabs predicts that the virus rate will fall to about 1 in 300 emails by the end of 2007.
  3. Instant Messaging (IM) threats will become more aggressive as more IM ecosystems open their networks to each other in 2007, like Yahoo! and MSN did in 2006. 
  4. Attacks against social networking sites such as MySpace and professional sites like LinkedIn and Plaxo are expected to continue due to useful and accessible contact information and user interests, making it easier to launch targeted attacks.
  5. Ransomware, malicious software that will encrypt key files and documents using a secret key known only to the extortionist, will become increasingly threatening as the technology used by cyber criminals becomes more sophisticated and unbreakable.
  6. Spam will become more targeted throughout 2007.
  7. ICANN will continue to be exploited through loopholes, and domain kiting will continue to be a problem. With domains lasting up to five days, cyber-criminals see this time as a window of opportunity and are able to do major damage.
  8. Botnets will be engineered to be resilient, allowing the criminals to maintain control of zombie computers more easily, much like SpamThru which we saw in 2006.
  9. The availability of off the shelf kits for less tech-savvy spammers will grow in numbers, and therefore increase the number of criminals that security experts will have to battle.
  10. Late in 2007 MessageLabs expects to see VoIP threats emerge as adoption of the technology increases and criminals target application vulnerabilities.

MessageLabs report is available from its website at http://www.messagelabs.com/Threat_Watch


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