More E-Mail, IM Attacks, Fewer Viruses Last Month

Research from two separate messaging consultancies indicates that e-mail and instant messaging attacks continued apace in the month of March, but the number of viruses detected surprisingly declined.

San Carlos, Calif.-based messaging management firm Postini processed more than 23 billion messages and discovered that “unwanted” e-mail messages accounted for nearly 19.6 billion of that total, a four percent increase compared to February. That brought the total amount of unwanted e-mail to 84 percent for the month.

The company also filtered 6.5 million IM conversations last month, an increase of more than 200 percent over February’s 2.2 million. This highlights the rapid growth of IM on enterprise networks.

Rapid Growth

“The increase of IM messages by 4.3 million in one month’s time is a clear indication that more corporations are adopting IM as a business communications tool,” Andrew Lochart, senior director of marketing for Postini, told TechNewsWorld. “More and more businesses move to IM.”

Postini measurements also show that inbound encryption volumes did not change from last month, with inbound volumes remaining at seven percent of legitimate e-mail and outbound at three percent.

While unwanted e-mail was on the rise, viruses declined by 19 percent of all e-mail in March.

Another messaging management firm, MessageLabs, released the March 2006 edition of its Monthly Intelligence Report last week as well, detailing specifics around security and threat activity for March.

The report confirmed that viruses had dropped, too, and that spam continued at its typically steady growth pace. Key highlights from the report, provided to TechNewsWorld, include:

  • Spam levels have continued to remain at a level rate with 57.8 percent;
  • While the size of botnets is remaining the same, the number of active botnets does continue to rise;
  • The virus rate dropped slightly this month to 1 in 59.1 from 1 in 44.1 in February.
  • In India spam levels went from 91 percent in February down to 59.1 percent in March, dropping India down to the third most-targeted spam geography, down from number one in February.

Global Problem

According to a spokesperson for MessageLabs, Beth Meszaros, Hong Kong last month had the highest level of spam geographically with 73.1 percent.

While India’s spam levels have dropped, still 73 days after the discovery of the Kama Sutra virus, India continues to be in the midst of clean up activities surrounding it, MessageLabs’ research shows.

With Postini said to be stopping a total of 32.5 million viruses, the top five viruses for March were as follows, the company told TechNewsWorld:

  • Mytob 16,742,504 (attacks blocked by Postini)
  • Netsky 5,289,158
  • Mimi 2,669,122
  • Lovgate 1,633,323
  • Bagle 1,179,221

Postini also reported that last month there were more than 15 billion directory harvest attacks (DHAs), malicious attacks and e-mail to invalid recipients, a seven percent increase over February’s 14 billion.

Reliable Performance

With the continued rise in spam, many are worried that their e-mail is not getting where it is supposed to go.

That’s prompting many large corporations to monitor the inflow and outflow of e-mail from their servers.

“With respect to e-mail performance, and reliability, many of our large enterprise customers are very concerned about ‘evening out’ their inbound mail traffic volume,” said Andres Kohn, vice president of product management for messaging security software vendor, Cupertino, Calif.-based Proofpoint.

“That is, they want to minimize the large traffic spikes that can be generated by inbound spam messages, directory harvest attacks, where spammers are sending e-mails to random addresses at the company domain, hoping to find valid addresses, and e-mail messages generated by virus attacks.”

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