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Comment : Major Surge In Malicious Email Attachments Spammed Out In Q3 2008

Identity thieves and hackers striking Windows users on all fronts, as Russia rears its head higher in the Dirty Dozen league of spam-relaying nations.

IT security and control firm Sophos has released the results of its investigation into the latest spam trends and revealed the top twelve spam-relaying countries for the third quarter of 2008.

The figures show an alarming rise in the proportion of spam emails sent with malicious attachments between July - September 2008, as well as an increase in spam attacks using social engineering techniques to snare unsuspecting computer users.

The report shows that one in every 416 email messages between July and September contained a dangerous attachment, designed to infect the recipient's computer - a staggering eight-fold rise compared to the previous quarter where the figure stood at only one in every 3,333 emails.

Sophos also identified that much of this increase can be attributed to several large-scale malware attacks made by spammers during the period.

The worst single attack was the Agent-HNY Trojan horse which was spammed out disguised as the Penguin Panic arcade game for Apple iPhones.

Other major incidents included a Trojan which pretended to be a Microsoft security patch, and malware, which masqueraded as a notice of a failed parcel delivery from firms such as UPS.

Hackers are also using social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter to spread their spam messages, often including links to dangerous websites harboring spyware, adware and other malicious code.

Whilst the United States retains its position as the top relayer of spam, Russia has increased its contribution to the world spam problem, soaring from 4.4 percent last year, to 8.3 percent during this time period.

It's good news for users of Apple Macs and Unix - the most widespread attacks are not designed to run on their computers.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.