Report Indicates Sudden Decline in Global Spam Email Volumes

Security researchers have confirmed a steady decline in the global volumes of spam email over the past four months despite the traditional increase of such activities during the holiday months.

We recently reported that new versions of the Waledac Botnet and Storm Worm, known as major culprits of spam email circulations, were uncovered in a massive spam campaign recently. Contrary to the creation of new advanced botnets designed to send spam messages, security experts have seen a steady decline of spam email since August of 2010.

Data compiled from security vender Symantec, demonstrated in the Figure 1 chart below, reports a steady decline in spam messages over the past four months with only minimal spikes. One small spike that should be noted is just after Christmas day which is traditionally known for increases in spam email.

Spam is now on a steady decline but what does this tell us about the activity of other malware? Just as we stated earlier, botnets such as Waledac and Rustock are known for sending exceptionally large percentages of spam email. At one time the Rustock botnet was responsible for more than 40 percent of the world's spam collectively sending about 46 billion spam email messages each day. Researchers have determined, just as we suspected, that many of the prominent botnets responsible for sending large amounts of spam messages in the past have slowed operations. Botnets such as Rustock over the past few months have failed to send out the usual amount of spam email. One of many reasons for this anomaly is that the controllers of spam botnets have ceased sending instructions for them to turnout massive amounts of spam. Another instance that could contribute to the decline in spam volumes is the notion that spammers are no longer making large profits from conventional methods.

global-spam-volume-2010-figure1
Figure 1. Symantec Global Spam volumes chart.

Unfortunately, spamming is a business like anything else. If the spammers are not getting paid as they are accustomed to, then they will simply close shop and move onto something else. "So if a campaign is not getting the returns they want, they can stop, regroup and try something else," says Websense researcher Carl Leonard. To further support this idea, a spam group known as 'Spamit' said they would be closing because of "numerous negative events". This could mean that they were not profiting like they wanted to. The Spamit group shut down in September 2010 which is close to the time that the Symantec chart starts indicating a steady decline in spam.

Another approach that spammers may be seeking, slowing their traditional efforts to a crawl, is social networking. We have posted numerous reports on recent spam campaigns conducted through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. As an alternative to traditional spam emailing, spammers could be ramping up their efforts to distribute messages through social networks instead.

Do not let this news construe the idea that spam is still extremely dangerous and will continue to plague all of us for several years to come. It is no way to be 100% certain that will we continue to see a decrease in spam as this could just be a dry spell. By all means, continue to protect yourself by utilizing spam filters and updated security software that is able to detect and remove malware. Remember, the best protection from malicious spam messages is by taking proactive measures instead of waiting until your system is infected with destructive malware.

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