April and May were significant months for malware growth and increased spam and phishing attacks, as the volume of known malware swelled by more than a factor of ten, growing by 927.4 percent from April to May, according to German email security provider Eleven’s E-Mail Security Report for June 2012. The volume of spam emails was also back on the rise, while virus outbreaks more than tripled, up by 251.6 percent, according to the report.
The increase in malware can be traced back to Trojan horses—Zbot is one well-known example– above all other methods of breach, the report noted, with fake delivery notifications, mobile phone bills and order statements among the most popular scams. Meanwhile, phishing attacks continued to rise with instances up by 23.6 percent in May after overall increase of almost 170 percent in the first quarter, Eleven’s research team discovered. In May, offers for fake luxury items was the third most popular subject for spam emails, comprising 14 percent of total spam. This was topped by pharmaceutical offers (34.4 percent) in the pole position. Casino spam (15.8 percent) nabbed the second slot.
Germany accounted for 2.8 percent of the world’s spam, breaking into the top ten list of spammers, with the U.S. occupying sixth place. France placed seventh, while four Asian countries, and two countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America also made the list. London’s upcoming Summer Olympic Games also had an impact on the rise of spam, with fake ticket offers and phising attacks contributing to the overall rise. The report suggests this influence will only grow strong as the opening ceremonies for the games nears.
“The tendency towards using campaigns that specifically target users in certain countries also continued to become more widespread in April and May 2012. In addition to phishing attacks, however, there was a focus on traditional spam,” the report noted. “Since the start of the year, the research team at Eleven has observed a marked increase in the volume of spam advertising male potency drugs and written in good German. This means that spam activities are also becoming increasingly region-specific – a trend that has been observed for a long time in phishing and malware campaigns.”
The report comes on the heels of Mimecast’s inaugural “The Shape of Email” study, based on a poll of IT departments on email practices and the contents of the average employee inbox. The survey found just 25 percent of email is considered essential for work purposes, with an additional 14 percent categorized as being of “critical importance.” Nearly two out of three (61 percent) of emails are not considered essential, and an estimated 7 percent of emails inside the average inbox are considered to be spam or junk.