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E-Threats Shifting With the Rising Popularity of Web 2.0

Malware writers have continued their efforts to infect computer users in order to receive direct financial gain

Spam messages account for 88.9 percent of the total amount of electronic messages sent worldwide. Text-based messages are the most frequently encountered form of spam, while image-based spam is extremely rare, with only 2.3 - 2.5 percent. The average size of a spam message is 3.5 Kb, although their size usually varies from 2 Kb to 9 Kb, depending on the approach.

In the second half of 2009, spammers have especially exploited international or national media events to lure their victims into opening the messages. One of the most important spam campaigns was launched after the controversial death of pop-star Michael Jackson. Back in July, BitDefender identified multiple spam waves allegedly offering more info on Michael Jackson's unknown killer, but actually carrying sexual enhancement drug ads and malware.

The Top 10 list for the second half of 2009's most advocated content
through e-mail spam includes:

           1    Medicine Spam
           2    Phishing Links
           3    Product Spam/Knockoff
           4    Malware Attached
           5    Software/OEM
           6    Loan/Insurance
           7    Employment
           8    Education
           9    Pornography (non dating)
          10    Dating

 

Web 2.0 Threats

Spamming is also a common practice among Web 2.0 service users, such as social networking. While Twitter and Facebook have imposed strict policies on spamming, some other social network services have barely taken into account this possibility. For instance, the professional network LinkedIn has become the favorite playground for people and organizations offering miscellaneous services. Spammers attempt to join users' professional networks and then bomb them with messages advertising their products or services.

During the past six months, BitDefender has identified multiple variations of LinkedIn spam -- a warning sign showing that the precarious state of the global economy pushes more and more providers into abusively marketing their services via social networks.

While spam and phishing sum up almost 80 percent of the e-threats related to social networks, worms exploiting large platforms have rapidly escalated. During the last six months of 2009, numerous families of worms have been pestering the largest social networks such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.

Initially spotted on August 2008, the Koobface worm has been one of the most active and destructive e-threats affecting social networking platforms. The cyber-criminal team behind the worm has released multiple variants of it in order to extend their reach with multiple social networking services. The viral infections took most of the platforms by surprise and the damage inflicted to users was beyond imagination, disabling some of the commercially-available antivirus utilities and exporting sensitive data such as e-banking credentials and IM passwords to a remote location. The infection technique was simple yet efficient: the worm used compromised accounts to lure friends into clicking the infected links.

The Phishing Landscape

Compared to the first half of 2009, the amount of phishing messages has remained relatively unchanged, although phishers have switched their focus to institutions that could bring them the most profit in the shortest timeframe. Primary targets are PayPal, Visa and eBay, followed by HSBC, American Express and Abbey Bank. Ally Bank and Bank of America rank last with a little over one percent of the total amount of phishing messages. These messages mostly target English-speaking computer users who are using the services of at least one of the institutions previously mentioned.

BitDefender Labs found that most web 2.0 phishing attempts in the first half of 2009 relied on social engineering schemes and speculated user naivety. The Twitter Porn Name scam is a good example. Users were invited to reveal their first pet name, as well as the first street on which they lived. These names are usually employed as backup/security questions. An e-crook possessing a person's username along with these "clues" can easily retrieve a password that he or she can later employ to access the account and send spam, access transactions, or use the account in whatever way necessary to make a profit, including demanding a ransom for release of the hijacked account.

"2009 witnessed a wide range of security threats aiming at both end-users and at corporate networks," Vâlceanu commented. "Extra caution and a highly-rated antimalware solution with antispam, antiphishing and antimalware modules are a must-have for anyone surfing the web in 2010."

For more information on this survey, please visit http://download.bitdefender.com/resources/files/Main/file/H2-2009-Malware-and-Spam-Review-final.pdf

To stay up-to-date on the latest e-threats, sign-up for BitDefender's RSS feeds here.

About BitDefender®

BitDefender is the creator of one of the industry's fastest and most effective lines of internationally certified security software. Since its inception in 2001, BitDefender has continued to raise the bar and set new standards in proactive threat prevention. Every day, BitDefender protects tens of millions of home and corporate users across the globe -- giving them the peace of mind of knowing that their digital experiences will be secure. BitDefender solutions are distributed by a global network of value-added distribution and reseller partners in more than 100 countries worldwide. More information about BitDefender and its products are available at the company's security solutions press room. Additionally, BitDefender's www.malwarecity.com provides background and the latest updates on security threats helping users stay informed in the everyday battle against malware.

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