Panda Security research shows high incidence of malicious email

The IT security firm says that, out of 430 million emails its managed email operation analysed, 89.88 per cent were spam and 1.11 per cent were infected with some form of malware.
The fall-out from this torrent of infected email is that 301 000 zombie PCs were created and used, mainly for distributing spam, says Panda, adding that its TrustLayer Mail managed email service, showed rates of spam only falling to below 80 per cent during January.
Infosecurity notes that many tier one ISPs in the UK automatically filter the more obvious spam as it flows across their network, to save on their own, as well as the bandwidth of their customers and the internet in general.
Likewise with malware-infected email, which many ISPs attempt to spot before it reaches their customers, and remove from the email chain., the Sheffield-based ISP, for example, makes use of deep- level packet inspection techniques to analyse the flow of email and internet traffic across its network, and without invading the privacy of its customers, spool off infected emails along with obvious spam.
However the ingenuity of spammers, phishing email creators and malware distributors is still responsible for a lot of unnecessary email,
Panda says that Netsky.P worm was the program most frequently detected among its users.
The malware activates automatically using a technique whereby, when users view the infected message through the Microsoft Office Outlook preview pane, it takes advantage of the Autorun feature to trigger the automatic execution of email attachments.
This technique is classed as a multi-stage attack in IT security terms, Infosecurity notes.
"The fact that these two malicious codes often act in unison explains the high number of detections of both," says Luis Corrons, PandaLabs' technical director, in his report summary.
"Cyber crooks often launch several strains of malware with each exploit to increase the chances of infection, so even if users whose systems are up-to-date are immune to the exploit, they could still fall victim to infection by the worm if they run the attachment," he added.
Panda's Top 10 malware in its 2008 email rankings were:

Generic Malware

According to Corrons, for many companies, spam is more than just a nuisance.
It consumes bandwidth, wastes employees' time and can even cause system malfunctions. In the end, it all results in a loss of productivity, he says.

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