08 December 2011

Spam sinks to lowest level in almost three years, says Symantec

Think you're seeing less junk mail in your inbox these days? If so, it's not just your imagination.

The rate of spam across the world has hit close to a three-year low and now encompasses just 70 percent of all e-mails, according to Symantec's November Intelligence Report (PDF).

That number is a healthy drop from 2009 when spam accounted for 90 percent of all global e-mails. And it's close to the 68 percent level seen in late 2008 after the spam hosting ISP McColo was shut down.

In particular, pharmaceutical spam is at its lowest level since Symantec started tracking it, now accounting for 32.5 percent of all spam, cut in half from 64.2 percent a year ago.

Russia proved to be the most spammed region last month, with a rate of 76.7 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia with 76.6 percent of its e-mails blocked as spam. The U.S. fared a little better where 69.9 percent of all e-mails were identified as junk.

Of course, spammers always find a way to bounce back, so the sharp decline in junk mail has been slowing as of late, says Symantec. Plus, the bad guys are using more targeted malware approaches instead of blanketing the world with mass e-mails.

Directed toward specific people or organizations, such targeted attacks often use social media to trick their victims into installing malware geared toward stealing company secrets.

Beyond just searching for confidential information, such attacks can also be used to disrupt business or even damage vital equipment. One prime example is the Stuxnet worm, which was designed to compromise critical infrastructure systems.

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