Spam levels are falling, but Kaspersky Lab says that malicious emails are increasingly becoming malicious and criminalised
One of the world’s leading security specialists has warned that spam emails are still a significant threat to many modern PC users.
In spite of the quantity of spam emails continuing to decrease, Kaspersky Lab has said that its products prevented 22,890,956 attempts to infect users via emails with malicious attachments in just the month of March this year, twice the number of attempts reported in the previous month.
The company also revealed that its latest Spam and Phishing Report found a significant increase in malicious spam emails in Q1 2016.
It found that the level of spam in email traffic has constantly been decreasing since 2012. In the first quarter for example, Kaspersky Lab registered 56.3 percent of spam in email flow. But this was 2.9 percent lower compared to the same period in 2015 when it was 59.2 percent.
But it also found that in the first quarter of this year, the quantity of emails with malicious attachments was 3.3 times higher than during the same period in 2015.
Geographically, the United States is still the largest producer of spam, sending 12.43 percent of unwanted emails. Vietnam is the second highest originator (with 10.3 percent) and India (6.16 percent). Russia has slipped down to seventh place this quarter with 4.9 percent.
And it seems that our German cousins tend to bear the brunt of malicious mailshots, as 18.9 percent of Kaspersky Lab product users in that country were targeted with these nasty spams. China meanwhile was second (9.43 percent) and Brazil took third place (7.35 percent).
The attackers are also utilising the growing fear about terrorism, after it became the main topic of spam emails in Q1.
Kaspersky Lab for example found that spammers often tried to convince recipients that the file attached to their spam email contained a new mobile application, which after installation, could detect an explosive terrorist device.
Suffice it to say, the app in question is an executive file in reality that contains malware that can steal personal user information, organise DDoS-attacks and install other malicious software.
And the famous Nigerian spammers have also opted to use terrorist topics in their emails as well.
“Unfortunately we are seeing our previous predictions about the criminalisation of spam coming true,” said Daria Gudkova, spam analysis expert at Kaspersky Lab.
“Fraudsters are using diverse methods to attract user attention and to make them drop their guard,” Gudkova said. “Spammers are employing a diversity of languages, social engineering methods, different types of malicious attachments, as well as the partial personalisation of email text to look more convincing.”
“The fake messages often imitate notifications from well-known organisations and services,” said Gudkova. “This is raising spam to a new dangerous level.”
These findings are in line with research from other security vendors. For example both Symantec and Proofpoint have recently said that spam levels are dropping to levels not seen since since 2012.
Proofpoint also warned that attacks that rely on malicious email attachments are on the rise.
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