Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 5:49 EDT

Commtouch Q1 Internet Threats Trend Report Highlights Strong Increase in Spam and Dangerous Email

May 1, 2013

100 billion spam and 1 billion malware emails daily – Pump and dump spam returns with a vengeance

MCLEAN, Virginia, May 1, 2013 /PRNewswire/ –

Unwanted and dangerous email increased dramatically in the first quarter of 2013,
according to a Q1 Internet Threats Trend Report issued by Commtouch(R) (NASDAQ: CTCH), a
leading provider of Internet security technology and cloud-based services. During the
first quarter of 2013, an average of 97.4 billion spam emails and 973 million malware
emails were sent worldwide each day. In March, the number of daily spam emails
significantly exceeded the 100 billion mark (117.8 billion).

http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120501/529254 )

Spam levels doubled between December 2012 and March 2013, a 98 percent increase.
Phishing also increased dramatically, with the number of phishing emails swelling to more
than 74 percent in March, compared to the previous December. The largest increase,
however, could be observed with email-borne malware: levels of emails carrying known
malware were 157 percent higher in March than in December. For virus outbreaks, the
increase was a stunning 290 percent.

The biggest part of this growth occurred in March. Compared to February, spam levels
increased by 41 percent, known malware by 75 percent, and virus outbreaks by 124 percent.
Only phishing volumes broke the trend, as they only increased by eight percent in March.
The current increase is unusual in that historically spam and malware levels rarely
correspond. In the past, when one category increased, the other often decreased or at
least stagnated. The significance of the first quarter growth is underlined by comparisons
with the respective volumes in March 2012: In March 2013, spam levels were 48 percent
higher than the previous year, malware emails were 255 percent higher, and malware
outbreaks were 251 percent higher. Only phishing levels decreased since March 2012.

Other report highlights:

        - Pump and dump spam, also known as penny stock spam, one of the most
          popular topics among spammers between 2006 and 2008, made a forceful comeback in Q1
          after having all but disappeared in previous years. In March 2013, pump and dump spam
          dominated the list of spam topics. Eighteen percent of the top 25 spam emails (with a
          combined volume of 46 percent of all spam) were pump and dump mailings. The trick was
          the same as in previous years. The emails advertise cheap shares with very small
          trading volumes, indicating there was significant earning potential in them. If only a
          few recipients can be fooled into buying the stock, the value will rise significantly
          and the spammers who have bought shares at the lower price can cash in.
        - In Web security, the first quarter of 2013 saw extensive usage of the
          Blackhole exploit kit. The kit is installed on target Web sites allowing the
          installation of drive-by malware. The JavaScript on the page scans the visiting system
          to determine the versions of popular software. Once the kit has determined that there
          is vulnerability, the relevant exploit is loaded, allowing the controller to gain a
          foothold on the infected system. The Blackhole controller can then deliver further
          malicious content.
        - Current news events were extensively used to lure email users to Web sites
          infected with malware. Fake email news alerts allegedly coming from CNN or the BBC
          exploited breaking news stories, such as the election of the new pope and the
          financial crisis in Cyprus. They linked to Web sites carrying the Blackhole exploit
        - The United States was the largest source of spam in the first quarter of 2013,
          topping the list of spam senders with a share of 9.1 percent of the overall volume.
          The United States was followed by Belarus (6.5%), Spain (5.6%), Argentina (5.0%) and
          India (4.3%).

“The dramatic rise in the quantity of unwanted and dangerous emails during the first
quarter of 2013 shows that email communication is still one of the key attack vectors,”
said Avi Turiel, director of threat research and market analysis at Commtouch. “Email is
still the most popular communication tool for private users and businesses alike, making
it an attractive target for cybercriminals. The rise in both emails with malware
attachments and drive-by-attacks also indicates that malware distributors don’t shift
their focus from one attack vector to another. To the contrary, they diversify their
attack methods in order to increase the efficiency of their campaigns and in order to
bypass some anti-spam and antivirus measures.”

The Commtouch Internet Threat Analysis Team regularly publishes related statistics
within its report. The quarterly report is compiled based on a comprehensive analysis of
billions of daily transactions handled by Commtouch’s GlobalView(TM) Cloud
[http://www.commtouch.com/cloud ].

To view the Commtouch Q1 Internet Threats Trend Report, visit:


About Commtouch

Commtouch(R) (NASDAQ: CTCH) is a leading provider of Internet security technology and
cloud-based services for vendors and service providers, increasing the value and
profitability of our customer’s solutions by protecting billions of Internet transactions
on a daily basis. With 12 global data centers and award-winning, patented technology,
Commtouch’s email, Web, and antivirus capabilities easily integrate into our customers’
products and solutions, keeping safe more than 350 million end users. To learn more, visit


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SOURCE Commtouch

Source: PR Newswire