Spam in Q2 2012: tough going for spammers in these straitened times

15 Aug 2012
Spam News

The proportion of spam in mail traffic continued to fall in Q2 2012, averaging 74.3%. This was a decrease of 2.3 percentage points compared to the previous quarter. In addition to seasonal factors this trend may also be related to the difficult economic situation prevailing in the world.

There are other signs that the world’s economic woes are having an impact on spam. For example, in May we saw an increase in English-language spam promoting personal financial services. At that time it accounted for 23.5% of all spam – a month later it had tripled in size and reached 73%. In June, the majority of these messages contained offers of illegal earnings.

“Similar changes were seen during the economic downturn of 2008-2009. If this difficult economic situation prompts a repeat of that scenario, we have good reason to believe there will be an increase in the levels of fraudulent and malicious spam in the coming months,” said Maria Namestnikova, Senior Spam Analyst at Kaspersky Lab. “We also expect a gradual decline in the proportion of spam, which could drop to the 65% mark of total mail traffic within the next year.”

Hot topics of Q2

A few years ago new online services that offered users collective discounts, or so-called coupons, appeared on the Internet. Coupon services have played a dual role in western spam – on the one hand, spammers have used ‘coupon’ mailings to grab the attention of potential victims. At the same time, the coupon system has drawn off part of the legal advertising previously seen in spam. As a result the amount of spam mailings in western mail traffic has decreased. 

In April, we detected spam that imitated an official Facebook notification. However, this time the links in the emails didn’t take users to hacked domains or sites, but to pages on Wikipedia and Amazon. However, staff on both websites responded promptly, and by the time the links were spread the pages had already been disabled.

One of the main topics in unsolicited mail since April has been the situation in Syria, which was exploited by ‘Nigerian’ spammers in Q2. Mail traffic included emails from “Assad’s wife”, “Assad’s family members” and ordinary Syrians.

Among the most high-profile events of Q2 was June’s Euro 2012 Football Championship. Since then the Olympics Games in London have been the focus for scammers, who have been announcing lottery wins allegedly from a lottery held by the Olympics Foundation. The closer the Olympics came, the more actively the spammers worked.

Geography of spam

In Q2 2012 the geography of spam by country changed considerably. China unexpectedly took the lead – 19% of all spam originated from its territory. Several years ago China was among the leaders of the spam rating but after the adoption of its anti-spam law in 2006 the quantity of junk mail being spread from its territory decreased significantly. Six years later and the spammers seem to have forgotten about this law as it is not being actively enforced.

After a long break, the top three spam sources saw the return of the US which shared 2nd place with India having distributed the same quantity of spam each – 11.7%. Vietnam came third having distributed 4.97% of all spam. Despite the relocation of spam sources the key trends remain the same: an increasing amount of junk mail is emanating from Asia and Latin America.

The full version of the spam report for Q2 2012 is available at http://www.securelist.com.

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