Tag Archives: botnets

US Leads the World in Spam

One interesting fact that didn’t make it into this month’s newsletter article on “The Secret Life of Spam” is that the United States leads the world in the overall volume of spam produced. And by a huge margin, too: according to security site Sophos, 24% of all spam generated this spring. That’s nearly a quarter! France and China, the runners-up, come in at less than 7% each. The full results can be accessed here. The results may be surprising because we tend to think of spam originating in Russia or Nigeria, or the actual place where the criminals who generate it live. But spam is a world-wide problem, and one would think the bad guys generally know enough to not spoil their own nests. Instead, the countries which actually generate the most spam are those where the most computers are infected with malware. The US merits the top billing for volume not so much due to poor security practices, but to our large and highly-connected population. When the overall amount is divided by population, the US doesn’t do so badly. In a per-person comparison, we come up merely twelfth, near the bottom with Bulgaria and Belarus being tops at 2.7 and 1.9 times the American rate. However, the US is still spewing a lot of crap messages, and if you’re infected, you’re part of the problem. Once your machine becomes part of a botnet, it’s essentially a zombie out of … Continue reading

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Web Security Snapshot Has Some Surprises

Symantec, a major Net security company, has published a report on Internet security threats of 2011. It’s an interesting snapshot of trends and statistics that makes sobering reading, along with a few eyebrow-raising surprises. Here are some of its highlights: A dangerous new trend among criminals is using shortened URLs to distribute and disguise spam and phishing attacks. These links are conveniently provided by numerous websites to handily replace lengthy strings in addresses, but where they actually point to may be hard to guess. Users are advised to use preview tools to check them out before clicking. Social media sites, especially Facebook, have been cleverly used to spread links to infected sites by crooks taking advantage of people’s expectations and profiles. People using social networking sites are cautioned to be careful about what personal information they post, and when clicking on URLs in email or posted on social media sites even when they come from friends or trusted sources. Macs are not immune: the first Mac-based botnet occurred in 2009. New threats emerged in 2011, including Mac Defender, a fake antivirus program that installs itself without permission. Symantec claims to have identified 4,989 new computer vulnerabilities in just 2011. However, the number of new problems with popular browsers has decreased slightly, Google Chrome having the most dramatic reduction. The amount of spam is actually decreasing, from over 88% of all email in 2010 down to 68% by the end of … Continue reading

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Flashback Trojan is a Warning to Mac Owners

It finally happened: for the first time, Macintosh computers have been attacked by a trojan virus in a big way. Few viruses have ever targeted them before, and for decades Apple owners were told simply not to worry, that viruses were a Microsoft problem. Now the owners of over a half-million Mac OS X computers share the pain – and some of the vulnerability – that Windows users have long been familiar with. The malware is called Flashback, and was discovered not long ago by Kaspersky Labs, a leading Moscow-based software security firm. Flashback can hijack a Mac without even an administrative password, due to its exploit of a flaw in Java. Though discovered last September, Oracle, the company that makes Java, patched the hole back in February, but that didn’t solve the problem. It turns out Apple ships its own version of Java, and their patches weren’t issued until early April. (Obviously, the company has a learning curve about prompt and effective security responses in front of them.) By now there are a lot of infected Macintoshes – not really all that many by Windows standards, but it can still spoil your day if you have one. The virus masquerades as an installer for Adobe’s Flash, and it can install itself. All you have to do is visit an infected website with an unprotected computer. As of the latest reports, the trojan has created a botnet – a network … Continue reading

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