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Global spam volumes on the increase, again!


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January 27, 2009

According to a close analysis performed by e-mail and Web filtering company MessageLabs, global email spam levels appear to be back to about 80 to 90 per cent of their original volumes prior to the takedown of the now infamous spammer of global proportions ISP McColo on Nov. 16, 2008.

Overall, spam levels are up close to 5 percentage points since December of last year to over 74.5 percent, reaching spam levels close to those prior to the king of all spammers McColo.

In the period from Jan. 3rd to Jan. 22, Message Labs reported that the Mega-D botnet spam was making the largest single contribution to junk e-mail levels, sending more than 26 millions spam emails per minute! At the same time, the Cutwail bot remains the largest active "Junk Bot" network with more than 1 million active IPs in January alone.

Overall, Message Labs has yet to see any spam email from servers compromised by the Conficker worm. Security researchers at Trend Micro were surprised to discover that items of dating spam in a recent junk mail run were spoofed so that they appeared to come from the security heavyweight.

But overall, email spammers got things wrong in the latest design of their spam run, which is expected to come soon on Valentine's Day. By tampering with the "From" field in the mail messages, spammers had hoped to sneak their useless messages past spam filters, but that isn't expected to happen anymore, according to MessageLabs.

But the hackers in that case erred badly, since the "From" and "Reply-To" addresser in junk mail messages are spoofed. As a result, "the spammers themselves aren’t getting the replies or even the bounces to the spammed messages they sent," writes Mary Ermitano, an anti-spam research engineer at Trend Micro. "This attack is apparently just a waste of resources for spammers."

The spam 'run' seeks to promote websites while also seeking to validate email addresses for later, possibly more insidious, e-mail spam and bogus runs. The junk mail messages in this case are not in themselves pointed at malware and don't point to virus-infected sites either, or at at least just not yet.

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Source: Message Labs.


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