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Press Release

Symantec Announces January 2010 MessageLabs Intelligence Report

2010 kicks off with high spam levels and new zero-day threats

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Symantec on Tuesday announced the publication of its January 2010 MessageLabs Intelligence Report. Analysis reveals spammers have launched new campaigns related to 2010 events to sustain the high levels of spam experienced toward the end of 2009. At the start of 2010, MessageLabs Intelligence saw the typical special New Year offers for pharmaceuticals, fashion accessories and watches, weight loss products, loans and jobs. At its peak, spam related to the New Year accounted for 7.7 percent of all spam on a single day and more than 50 percent of New Year related spam was sent by the Grum and Cutwail botnets combined.

Spammers are now moving away from the New Year themes and are expected to next latch onto Valentine's Day-related spam topics. Spammers and phishers have also been quick to take advantage of the tragedy that struck Haiti to generate advanced-fee fraud scams. As many countries seek to offer humanitarian aid and relief, the scammers are looking for ways to exploit those donation efforts counting on the public's concern and desire to help to cloud their good judgment.

With 83.4 percent of spam originating from botnets at the end of 2009, MessageLabs Intelligence calculated that the remainder of spam, 0.9 percent -- the equivalent of 900 million spam emails, originated from free webmail accounts. More than 79 percent of webmail spam came from three well-known free webmail service providers.

"Despite the best efforts of the webmail providers to prevent this abuse of their services, there is still a viable market in the underground economy for buying and selling legitimate and usable webmail accounts," said Paul Wood, MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Symantec Hosted Services.

In December 2009, a new zero-day vulnerability in a popular version of a .PDF viewer was disclosed of which MessageLabs Intelligence blocked the first versions in the wild in November 2009 protecting Symantec Hosted Services customers from the attack before it began. The attack targeted high level individuals in the public sector, education, financial services and large international corporations. Arriving as a .PDF file containing embedded Javascript, the attack also involved a social engineering aspect which varied according to the individual and organization being targeted.

In December 2009, MessageLabs began tracking a new botnet called Lethic, which quickly accounted for 2.5 percent of all spam. Within the first week of January, spam from Lethic increased to less than four percent of all spam and then peaked at 5.25 percent of all spam on 8 January before dropping off to nothing.

The January 2010 MessageLabs Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all of the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed geographical and vertical trends. The full report is available at http://www.messagelabs.com/intelligence.aspx.

Symantec's MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs Intelligence provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from our control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

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Email archiving protects email 24X7 with enterprise-level backup and support. Data is secured at multiple sites and restoring archived email happens quickly and does not require IT professionals.

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