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Spam declines, malware jumps - Kaspersky

20 November 2013, 12:58 Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - While the total number of spam e-mails declined in the last three months, the proportion of malicious spam jumped, a security company has reported.

"The percentage of spam in total e-mail traffic during the third quarter of the year came to 68.3%, down 2.4 percentage points from the second quarter. Meanwhile, the proportion of malicious spam grew more than 1.5 times," Kaspersky Lab said on Tuesday.

Much of the malware targeted user information like logins, passwords and financial information, Kaspersky said.

As more people come online criminals are hoping to target them in order to steal financial information or use their computers as part of a botnet.

A botnet is a collection of compromised machines that can be used by criminals to send out malicious and unsolicited messages or even target companies and then demand a ransom to call off the attack.

News exploit

"In the third quarter we came across a very interesting mass mailing where the fraudsters imitated a reply from the technical support service of a large antivirus company. The e-mail informed the user that a file which he had allegedly sent for analysis turned out to be malware," said Darya Gudkova, head of Content Analysis and Research at Kaspersky Lab.

She added that the signature of the "technical support engineer" contained an attachment with the Email-Worm.Win32.NetSky.q. malware.

Criminals also exploited news during the period under review to send related spam.

Popular topics included the hunt for US leaker Edward Snowden, the birth of the royal baby in the UK and the Spanish train accident.

The links from these messages directed users to compromised websites with an exploit kit known as Blackhole.

"In October, the author of Blackhole, known as Paunch, was arrested in Russia. What this will mean for the future of the kit remains unclear, but Kaspersky Lab experts suggest it could lead to a drop in the number of malicious 'news' mailings," the security company said.

According to Kaspersky, SA ranks with Denmark, Japan and Finland as countries with the lowest risk of online infection.

Vietnam, Russia and Kazakhstan users face the highest risk of having their computers infected online.

The most common malware found on computers is the Trojan.Win32.Generic, found on 35.5% of machines, Kaspersky said.

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