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US phishing attacks soared 50% plus during July

Symantec's State of Spam and State of Phishing reports were released yesterday afternoon.

The first report reveals that - with some fluctuations - spam averaged around 89% of all email in July, compared to 90% of all email in June.

Delving into the Symantec spam report reveals that there are distinct trends in certain types of junk mail.

Image spam, for example, which by-passes filters by embedding spam in an image, accounted for 17% of all spam at one point in July.

Interestingly, health-related spam declined 17%, while 419 (Nigerian fraud) spam rose by three percent.

Symantec says that spammers continued to tap into people and events in the news to spread their junk.

Popular subject lines for spam in July included references to Michael Jackson's death and to President Obama and health care.

According to Symantec, pharmaceutical spam worked on both the hope and the fear angles.

Some spam messages pretended to offer meds from Obama's new healthcare program, while others warned unwilling recipients to stock up on meds before they go away so that Obama could kill the elderly, a theme of recent conspiracy theories.

And with the release of the latest Harry Potter movie, Symantec says that related subject lines were popular among spammers.

Amusingly, Symantec pointed to one health-related spam that talked about a Harry Potter e-book but included a URL to an online pharmacy.

Among countries where all the spam originates, the US has the dubious distinction of being in pole position, accounting for 25% of global spam. Brazil, South Korea, and Turkey were also popular countries for spam production.

Phishing

On the phishing front, Symantec said that around 63% of phishing URLs in July were created using phishing toolkits - a massive jump of 150% over June.

Infosecurity notes that the phishing software toolkits automate the process of setting up a fake website so that even a novice can pull off effective phishing attacks.

Among those countries hosting phishing sites, the US took pole position with 29% of all phishing sites worldwide. China came in a modest second position with just two percent, says the report.

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