Does decline in spam signal rise of other malware?

by Sharon Lobo    Jan 21, 2013

MalwareIn this age of cyberwarfare and hacktivism, does spam stand a chance to be the preferred mode of attack by cybercriminals? If Kaspersky Lab’s recent data, is anything to go by, the share of spam in email traffic has decreased steadily throughout 2012 to hit a five-year low. Last year the average stood at 72.1%, which was 8.2% less than in 2011. While this trend is indeed should bring cheer email users worldwide it also brings along a sense of insecurity. The reason being such a prolonged and substantial decrease in spam levels is unprecedented and it would gradually give rise to other serious forms of cyber-attacks.

For instance, there is a growing number of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs), which are highly sophisticated and carefully constructed. These allow cybercriminals gain access to a network and steal information quietly. What is more alarming the growing trend around APTs, as Stephanie Boo of FireEye explains, “Today, the (APT) attacks are so sophisticated that it takes days for victims to realize that their systems and information was compromised. As the e-crime industry appears to be a very lucrative market not only for professional hackers and malware writers but also for 16 or 17 year olds as it offers a medium to make quick money. As long as there is money to make e-crime will continue to grow irrespective of the geography.”

Also it is not only about money, cyber warfare for instance can be deployed to take down a countries infrastructure or its key source of energy, as Mike Baldi of Honeywell cites, “If you can disable a refinery or a group of refineries from a faraway place using a computer, would you ever require to use lethal weapons?”

Coming back to the decline in spam, security experts say the key behind the decrease in spam volume is the overall heightened level of anti-spam protection. Spam filters are now in place on just about every email system, including free ones. Additionally, most email providers have introduced mandatory DKIM signature policies (digital signatures that verify the domain from which emails are sent).

Another factor behind the falling levels of spam is inexpensive advertising on legal platforms. With the emergence of Web 2.0, advertising opportunities on the Internet have skyrocketed: banners, context-based advertising, and ads on social networks and blogs.
So while the decline in spam is good news indeed, threats such as APTs and cyber-warfare ensure you still need to be on your guard.