Spam evolves - Is less annoying, but more dangerous

Posted Monday, January 25, 2016

Over the last 3 years, the sort of spam we used to get has essentially disappeared.

No, not the tinned food product, but the unsolicited and quite frankly, irritating e-mails.

However, commercial advertising is still alive and well! (Business to business unsolicited e-mail is still legal) Laws have been passed in the USA and Europe which have allowed law enforcement to move in swiftly to close down the companies who used to send millions of messages advertising cheap drugs etc. Some spam is just plain annoying, however it can also be used as a means to access personal details and fraud. AKA phishing. Sadly, this variety of spam is on the rise along with e-mails whose sole intent is to trick the recipient into downloading malware.

Here at Digital Evolutions, we filter out and delete e-mails for our customers which are clearly identifiable as spam. The percentage of all e-mails which are filtered has grown from around 45% - 60% since 2012.

Unfortunately, the miscreants that send these spam messages evolve their techniques just as quickly as the technology we use to block them. Years ago, spammers would run their own servers, but as the bulk of spam is now essentially either fraud or malware (an offence under the Misuse of Computers Act), they no longer do this.

Instead, they compromise individual computers which belong to private individuals and use those machines to send the phishing malware e-mails. The miscreants will have hundreds to thousands of compromised computers under their control at any one time. This means that filtering spam has become harder because every spam message comes from a different (and generally legitimate) sender. From the mid noughties through to 2012 the content of phishing and malware e-mails remained consistent.

Today, the content is often on trend and short lived. For example, during the first 2 weeks of 2014, almost 50% of phishing e-mails were targeted towards owners of new Apple devices. Thefts of personal information from large internet companies and retailers mean the miscreants have accurate lists of data. They are therefore able to send targeted content to specific groups of users.

As companies get more into using cloud solutions and social media to connect with their customers, the awareness of phishing and malware are key to keep everybody safe. The nightmare scenario with phishing is that a company is locked out of their Cloud systems or social media accounts. This can be detrimental to a company who use social media as the attackers then often post malware or dodgy content which appears to be posted by the company.

While these events are indeed criminal. Getting the police involved is extremely difficult as such cases are incredibly complex. Some of the malware doing the rounds is hugely damaging. Cryptolocker and variants silently install on the attacked computer and encrypt (password protect) all the company’s files before demanding a ransom.

If this were to happen to you and you are unable to recover from your back up, then that data is probably lost forever. Although anti-virus software should detect the malware, this cannot always be guaranteed. The best protection against malware is the use of a good anti-virus alongside staff training.

If you wish to get your e-mail hygiene and security checked out, why not give us a call on: 0845 805 4870 or contact us via our website:

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