Thursday, April 16, 2009

97 percent of email is classified as ‘unwanted’

It’s been reported before, but the numbers are just not decreasing! Spam and ‘unwanted’ email continue to constitute an amazing 97 percent of all email circulating around the world. Imagine how much more efficient email services would be without this load!

These findings come from a new security intelligence report by Microsoft, which looked at online activity during the second half of 2008, and suggests that these unwanted messages are either spam, have malicious attachments or are used as phishing baits by cyber-criminals to steal valuable information such as credit cards, user IDs and passwords.

While most modern email and instant messaging programs are configured to block the transmission of potentially dangerous files by extension, attackers are now using common and less threatening file formats such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Portable Document Format (.pdf). These formats are used legitimately by people every day and can’t be blocked, making them an attractive target for malware creators.

More than 91 percent of attacks exploiting vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office were using security holes that had been plugged by updates that had been available for more than two years. Attacks using PDF files rose sharply in the second half of 2008, the report noted.

Part of the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report also examines security breach incidents around the world and finds that stolen equipment, such as laptops, is the most common reason for data loss, coming in at 50 percent of data loss occurrences. That is even higher than security breaches caused by hacking or malware, which are only responsible for 20 percent of all data loss.

The report also pinpoints the countries that are suffering from the most infections of malicious software, or malware. Russia and Brazil top the global chart of infections, followed by Turkey and Serbia and Montenegro.

Apparently, the type of malware varies from country to country. In China, several malicious web browser modifiers are common, while in Brazil, malware that targets users of online banks is more widespread. In Korea, viruses such as Win32/Virut and Win32/Parite are common.

It’s a cat and mouse chase, as criminals keep coming up with ways around anti-virus and network security software. You need to protect your PC, but watchhout!
Apparently, criminals are also putting out ‘scareware’, which are fake security programs that falsely tell to install software to protect your PC from an attack; but scareware actually steals personal details!

Where will all this end? Rest assured that it won’t, so educate yourself and be suspicious of all emails you get. Better safe than sorry.


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