Although internet-user education about malware-distributing e-mail messages appears to be at a standstill, our malware research team has noted a rise in malware-affiliated botnets over recent months; to the point where many have concluded that criminals are building botnets specifically to host malicious e-mail bots. Although the quantity of e-mail-based attacks hasn't risen steadily throughout the year, accessibility to semi-automated e-mail messaging as a method of attacking new computers has never been greater. Paying attention to common e-mail-based scams may help prevent you from being attacked by these malware-aligned botnets, which are capable of hosting trojans, viruses, rootkits, spyware and a wide range of other forms of malicious software. For the tech-savvy, you may also be interested in blockers for IPs and website domains that automatically block access to online locations that have been confirmed to traffic various types of malware.
Major Types of Botnet-Assisted Malicious Software Attacks
Although the full catalog of malware-distributing e-mail messages is far too large to list in one article, major outgrowths in recent e-mail attacks can be noted with relative ease. As of 2011, the top e-mail-based attacks with unusually large distribution that our malware experts have noted include 'Map of love,' 'Hotel charge error' and 'UPS/Fedex,' as described below:
- 'Map of love' contains a file attachment for a trojan installation (despite the external .pdf appearance) that can install other types of malicious software and harm your computer's security. As the name implies, 'Map of love' is centered around adult content as the fake lure for its real PC threat.
- 'Hotel charge error' pretends that there was a problem with a recent financial transaction that requires your intervention to halt an inaccurate bill. Like 'Map of love,' our malware researchers have found that 'Hotel charge error' also provides an infected file attachment.
- Finally, 'UPS/Fedex' is noteworthy for being, by far, the largest spike of e-mail attacks in recent months, with estimated targets well over twice that of the tally for 'Hotel charge error.' It claims that the 'attached notice' provides details on a package delivery that was missed, but the reality, of course, is that the file contains another trojan.
Why This New Malware-Empowering Botnet May Be Worry-Worthy
Although 2011 hasn't seen steady increases in e-mail-based harmful software attacks, our malware research team is most worried by the increase in sharp, extreme spikes of malicious software messages. The sheer quantity of these spikes is more four times the distribution of earlier attacks, as prominent PC security blogs like Commtouch Café have noted. They should also be distinguished from typical 'spam' e-mail (although different PC security sources may or may not use the same term to refer to them) in that these messages are used to distribute harmful software instead of irrelevant web links.
Because the occurrence of these spikes indicates that the full capacity of these botnets isn't being used on a regular basis, you should be careful to avoid attacks by the latest 'spike' scam that's being tested by these criminals. Although the subject and message may be very different from one attack to the next one, the bottom line - forcing you to open an infected file attachment; will always be the same.