Spam and e-mail-borne malware attacks surged over the first month of 2009, with worm viruses back on the radar and unsolicited junk mail piling up across the board, according to filtering specialists AppRiver.
According to the company's research into messaging patterns recorded during January, the overall volume of e-mail processed by AppRiver increased by over 120 percent compared to Dec. '08, with a whopping 97 percent of that traffic consisting of spam and malware distribution schemes.
AppRiver researchers said that Europe (34 percent) generated the highest volumes of messaging and spam traffic worldwide during the month, followed by Asia (27 percent), South America (12 percent) and North America (19 percent). Compared to December, North America saw its role in spam and malware campaigns dip during January, while South America and Asia experienced gains.
On a nation-by-nation basis, Brazil accounted for the highest levels of spam around the globe during the month, followed by the U.S., India, China, and Russia, respectively. Spam also surged notably in the Ukraine, which accounted for over 150,000 million messages. By comparison over 800,000 million spam e-mails originated from Brazil in January.
The most common malware threats tracked by AppRiver during the month were:
-UPSTroj.mal.ix -W32\Trojan3.Vas - HTML\Iframe!Exploit
In terms of worm activity, the Storm Worm (aka Waledac), a P2P botnet worm, noticeably reared its head again during January and has now also morphed into a Valentine's Day-themed attack, AppRiver reported.
In addition, the Downadup.A/B worm spread "very rapidly" during the month, researchers said, primarily by capitalizing on vulnerabilities existing in Microsoft's Windows Server Service Remote Procedure Call. The Downadup attack is still taking advantage of many unpatched devices despite Microsoft's work to distribute a last-minute fix, the experts said.
According to the researchers' observations, Downadup is "very sophisticated" and has already infected as many as 5 million PCs, with the highest rates outside of the U.S. and U.K.
While virus-infected e-mail messages had ebbed in recent months, the rate of attacks increased significantly during January, with AppRiver tracking over 28 million samples, a 9 million threat increase over Dec. 2008.
On the horizon, the company predicted that both Valentine's Day and the impending tax season would serve as bait in widespread attacks, just as they have for years.
Overall the word appears to be that while Web-based threats are all the rage, good old messaging attacks are still popping up just about everywhere.
Matt Hines has been following the IT industry for over a decade as a reporter and blogger, and has been specifically focused on the security space since 2003, including a previous stint writing for eWeek and contributing to the Security Watch blog. Hines is currently employed as marketing communications manager at Core Security Technologies, a Boston-based maker of security testing software. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of Core Security, and neither the company, nor its products and services will be actively discussed in the blog. Please send news, research or tips to [email protected].