Everyones numbers show a rapid increase in phishing attacks and forecast a continuing increase. Postini says that as much as 1 percent of all spam is phishing of some sort (like spam, the definition of phishing probably is not standard). Sounds like good news for companies that specialize in countering phishing attacks. Ive also seen anecdotal evidence thatuntil this last weeks MyDoom and Bagle outbreakse-mail worm traffic had declined to very low levels. Now thats a trend I can believe, since theres no good reason for someone to get infected by one of these things unless they are utterly irresponsible.And a number of unique factors about AOL make it possible, maybe even imperative, that they work more aggressively. First, since their user base is the biggest load of newbies on the Net, they are a natural target for spammers looking for naiveté. Second, AOL has been more aggressive about blocking outbound SMTP connections than other ISPs. Some ISPs still dont even require SMTP AUTH (where you have to provide logon information for your outbound connection); in such cases spammers can use a zombied system to send mail through the ISPs mail servers. They even have a rate-limiting capability called SRL that limits other ISPs zombied systems. Its easy to see where such logic takes you, and I find it much more believable that the people Im talking to at all of these companies are professionals and really do see themselves as fighting spam on behalf of their users. This leads me to believe everyone, including the possibility that AOL really is way ahead of the curve. Perhaps the Internet Engineering Task Force should just recommend AOL accounts as a new Internet standard for spam fighting. Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
More from Larry Seltzer
AOL does insist that their numbers are for real, and they tell me that the numbers they put out factored into some of the issues I brought up, such as declining enrollment. Assuming for the moment that everyone (except me, of course) is exaggerating to advance their self-interest, AOL would be expected to give you the impression that they are better at blocking spam and intimidating spammers than their competitors. Postini, MessageLabs and Symantec, on the other hand, dont really have an interest in spam going away, because their sales are proportional to the level of threat.