Spam Accounts for 79 Percent of Email Traffic: MessageLabs Report

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 Security firm Symantec ( has released its January 2011 MessageLabs Intelligence Report that reveals spam is responsible for 78.6 percent of all email traffic. According to the report released Tuesday, the volume of spam in circulation in January 2011 was 65.9 percent lower than that same period a year ago, when the spam rate was 83.9 percent of all email traffic.

Symantec finds that the recent decline of spam is the result of both a halt in the spam activities of three botnets — Rustock, Lethic and Xarvester — and “unrest among pharmaceutical spam-sending gangs”.

“The closure of spam affiliate, Spamit, was partially responsible for the disruption to spam output,” said MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Paul Wood, “However, there are likely other factors at work, such as consolidation and restructuring of pharmaceutical spam operations which has led to instability in the market likely to be exploited as a business opportunity by other spam gangs. We expect to see more pharmaceutical spam in 2011 as new pharmaceutical spam brands emerge and botnets compete for their business.”

According to the press release, pharmaceutical spam experienced peak levels in May 2010 when up to 85 percent of spam was related to pharmaceutical products. In January 2011, pharmaceutical spam accounted for 59.1 percent of all spam. The report finds that this decline is the result of Spamit shutting down in October 2010.

In 2010, spam-sending botnets were responsible for 88 percent of global spam, falling to 77 percent by the end of the year. Rustock is the single, largest spam-sending botnet according to the report, previously being accountable for 47.5 percent of all spam or 44.1 billion spam emails a day.

“At various points during Rustock’s history, the botnet has often exhibited irregular spamming patterns by sending huge volumes of spam before going quiet for several weeks at a time,” Wood said. “But throughout 2010, its spamming pattern was more regular and it had been active non-stop until December 2010. Our investigation revealed no evidence of Rustock being disrupted in any way either by law enforcement or through other action.”

The full report delves into trends in viruses, endpoint threats, phishing, Web security as well as geographical trends and vertical trends. 

Canada approved an anti-spam law at the beginning of January. Though it received royal assent on December 15, Bill C-28, or the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, will not be enforced until approximately eight months from now. Violators of the law could face fines of up to $10 million.

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