Spam is on the decrease, but still accounts for around 76 percent of the world’s email traffic. That’s according to the latest Symantec Intelligence Report. Symantec is the largest maker of security software for computers.
Interestingly, Saudi Arabia tops the list the most spammed countries on Earth, with a spam rate of nearly 85 percent. Russia and China follow the most spammed countries in second and third spot, with spam accounting for more than 80 percent of email traffic.
Steven Ambrose, of strategic consulting firm Strategy Worx says that is not unexpected. Saudi Arabia, he says, is so heavily spammed “mostly due to high internet penetration, and a very high per capita income, combined with the perception of wealth in the country”.
“China and Russia are also being targeted as they have huge numerical numbers of internet connections, as well as the reality that they also have a huge amount of immature and unsophisticated internet users, due to the fact that they have been growing exponentially in recent years. This type of internet user is the ideal target for spamming and phishing. The USA and other western economies are not that far behind, but are regarded as sophisticated internet users with a lower propensity to be roped in by these scams,” he adds.
Phishing attacks, meanwhile, are most prevalent in Northern Europe with Sweden and the UK being the most phished countries on earth. One on 45.3 emails in Sweden were identified as phishing attacks.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the report claims that phishing accounted for only one in 8 115 emails in Japan.
Sweden also tops the list for the highest percent of malicious emails, with one in 53.2 emails thought to contain a malicious threat. While the report indicates that emails containing malicious threats are on the rise, the global average (one in 203.3 emails) is nowhere near that of Sweden.
The situation is somewhat different on the web. Symantec Intelligence identified an average of 3 441 sites harbouring malware and other potentially unwanted programs including spyware and adware. This represents a 49.4 percent decrease from July.
While the automotive industry is the most spammed industry sector, with a spam rate of 79 percent, it is closely followed by the Education sector which reached a 78.9 percent spam rate in August. Education also suffered heavily with malware rates. One in every 94 emails received in this sector contained some form of malicious software.
Ambrose believes that this is primarily due to the fact that, historically, “the auto industry is a major player in the economy for most industrialised economies, and this could explain why this industry is hit harder than others, it is also one of the most diverse industries in terms of reach with so many ancillary industries contributing to the overall sector,” including the chemical and fuel sector.
The public sector is, however, the most targeted by emails containing malware with one in 24 emails being blocked as malicious. It is also the most targeted sector for phishing attacks, with one in 24.8 emails comprising a phishing attack.
According to the report, the most frequently blocked malware for the last month was W32.Ramnit!html. This is a generic detection for .HTML files infected by W32.Ramnit, a worm that spreads through removable drives and by infecting executable files. The worm spreads by encrypting and then appending itself to files with .DLL, .EXE and .HTM extensions. Variants of the Ramnit worm accounted for 15.8 percent of all malicious software blocked by endpoint protection technology in August.
Further analysis also revealed that there were as many new boot time malware (MBR) threats in the first seven months of 2011 as there were in the previous three years. An MBR is an area of the hard disk (usually the first sector) used by a computer to perform start up operations. It is one of the first things to be read and executed by the computer hardware when a computer is powered on, even before the operating system itself.
The report also reveals that much of the increase in phishing was down as a result of attacks related to major brand names such as Apple’s iDisk service.