Spam is now 90 percent of all email

According to this article in c|net, Symantec’s MessageLab released a report last Monday that claims just over ninety percent of global email traffic is now spam, after a five percent increase from April to May 2009. The report also indicates that older, established sites are now being used to host various types of malware more often than newly-minted sites. Spammers are attacking these older and more trustworthy domains, compromising them so that they become hosts and distribution points for malware and spam content.

Contrary to some popular notions, this report claims that spam originates evenly from three geographic areas: the Americas are responsible for about 35% of spam, versus 32% from Europe and 28% from Asia. About 58% of all spam comes from known botnets evenly distributed around the globe, although the botnet known as Donbot is alone responsible for 18%.

A botnet is a (usually) large group of computers that are all infected with virus, worm, or Trojan horse software under a command-and-control infrastructure. The originator, or “bot herder” issues commands to the infected “Zombie” computers to send or relay spam messages, as well as send out copies of the infected software in an attempt to gain control of additional, weakly-secured computers. It has been estimated that nearly one-quarter of all computers on the Internet are infected Zombies.

What can you do about all this? Not a great deal, unfortunately. Using anti-virus and anti-spam software, and updating it regularly, is the only way of combatting the flood of Internet spam and malware. In addition, most ISPs implement anti-malware software on their email servers — Google’s gMail service features one of the better anti-malware software suites.

But the bad guys are still out there, and they’re very busy. It pays to be vigilant, folks.