IBM’s SoftLayer Pegged as Number One Spammer

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IBM subsidiary SoftLayer Technologies has been accused of being the world’s largest spammer with levels of unsolicited mail sent by the company rising seven times since a year ago.

Security vendor Cloudmark claimed in its latest Security Threat Report that 42% of all outbound email from the Dallas-based hoster and cloud computing firm in the third quarter was spam.

The seven-fold increase from 12 months ago is mainly due to malicious emails sent to recipients in Brazil, the security player claimed.

Links in these mails will frequently lead recipients to downloading trojan malware or to phishing pages designed to elicit credentials for the Boleto bank payment system popular in the country.

The SoftLayer spam problem has spiked in the past six months, as Cloudmark explained:

“SoftLayer was one of the main pioneers of cloud computing. By automating the provisioning of virtual hardware resources, it enabled the exponential growth of other successful Internet companies. At one point it was consistently adding fifty new servers a day just to support a single client, Tumblr. However, automation in the rapid provisioning of new resources is just as valuable to criminal spammers as it is to growing social networks. SoftLayer has responded to complaints by closing down accounts used by particular spammers, but the spammers are simply coming back with new accounts.”  

Cloudmark said the problem is so bad it is currently blacklisting 30,000 IP addresses—1.4% of the total—from SoftLayer, up from just 11,000 in April.

The security vendor urged IBM to work with Brazilian law enforcers to bring the spammers to justice.

Elsewhere in the report, Cloudmark warned of a continuing rise in successful phishing attacks, citing Verizon figures that nearly one quarter (23%) of recipients open phishing messages.

There’s also a clear link to targeted nation state attacks, with phishing associated with 95% of such threats a couple of years back, the report claimed.

Cloudmark engineering director, Angela  Knox, argued that awareness raising in combination with good internal processes and filtering tools can help organizations.

“An effective anti-phishing strategy should start with awareness of the different types of phishing, and a review of the risk to an organization if an employee falls for one of the various types of phishing,” she told Infosecurity by email.

“The different types of phishing can cause differing levels of harm to an organization and the attackers can be after different items of value, from wiring money, to access to confidential company data, to getting access to the company’s network for ongoing attacks.” 

Two-factor authentication, data encryption, restricted privileges and DNS monitoring can all help reduce risk, she added.

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