Kaspersky Lab releases “Spam Evolution” report for Q2 2008

31 Jul 2008
Virus News

Kaspersky Lab, a leading developer of secure content management systems, has released its latest report on the evolution of spam for the second quarter of 2008.

In the second quarter of 2008, the percentage of spam in mail traffic averaged 82.5%. By comparison, in the first quarter, spam accounted for 88% of all emails. A high of 93.9% was recorded on April 9, with a low of 64.2% on May 3.

The forecast of Kaspersky Lab’s analysts proved to be accurate: in May, for the first time in several years, there was a seasonal fall in the percentage of spam (79.1% of all email traffic compared to an average of 86% before May). In mid-June, that figure grew somewhat but did not reach the level of early April.

The leading categories of spam remained largely unchanged with the exception of Fake designer goods entering the top five. Advertisements for fake designer watches have been common in English-language spam for some time, but it has not been a significant element of Russian spam. Since this area of business appeared in Russia, the percentage of replica-related spam has grown to such an extent that we had to introduce the Fake designer goods category in March 2008. This category ended the quarter in third place on 11.3%. The long-standing leader among spam categories, Medications and health-related goods and services, noticeably lost ground compared to the last quarter, plunging by almost 10 percentage points to 22.7%. Education (14.3%) ended the quarter in second place, while Travel and tourism (9.6%) and Advertising of spammer services (4.9%) completed the top five in fourth and fifth place respectively.

The results for the second quarter of 2008 suggest that the war on spam is currently in a period of relative calm. Spam filters are coping well with run-of-the-mill junk emails, while spammers are unable to come up with innovative technological solutions capable of breaking through anti-spam defenses and have to be content with the existing levels of effectiveness. This is why players in the market for spammer services have started competing in terms of the quality of advertising rather than the ability to come up with new tricks to evade spam filters.

In addition, spammers continue to develop new channels for distributing adverts. They have used forums for some time now, and social-network spam is no longer a new phenomenon. To these have been added web-based office applications (Google docs) and mail system blogs, where spammers post advertising links which are subsequently included in spam messages. Another area being actively developed is ICQ spam, which is gradually converging with email spam in terms of the subjects advertised.

Spammers are often quick to use new, emerging services. This love of new services is due not only to their popularity among users but also to the fact that they often lack sufficient protection.

Although the situation is relatively stable, spam remains a serious threat, especially to careless users. Fraudsters of all kinds, phishers and virus writers make skillful use of spam to achieve their goals. In the second quarter of 2008, the variety of criminal-service advertisements, scam and phishing emails continued to amaze. Examples included offers to teach users how to crack email and ICQ accounts, attempts to fool people into participating in money-laundering schemes and, of course, phishing messages targeting users’ money or personal data.

With the coming of autumn, we can expect the percentage of spam in email traffic to rise. No doubt, after a brief lull spammers will conduct their technological experiments with renewed energy. We do hope, however, that spam filters will continue to reliably protect users from unwanted advertising.

The full version of the report can be found at www.viruslist.com.