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River of junk stems from malware plague

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Nine in ten emails are now spam with an estimated 200bn junk mail messages a day clogging up the internet, according to a new report by networking and security giant Cisco.

Drive-by download attacks - planting redirection scripts on legitimate sites that lead onto hacker controlled websites full of exploits - have become a popular method for spreading all forms of malware, including botnet clients that turn PCs into spam-churning zombies.

The US is the single biggest source of spam, accounting for 17.2 per cent of junk mail. Other big offenders include Turkey (9.2 per cent), Russia (8 per cent), Canada (4.7 per cent), Brazil (4.1 per cent), India (3.5 per cent), South Korea (3.3 per cent), Germany and the UK (2.9 per cent each).

The latest 2008 edition of Cisco's annual security report notes a 90 percent growth in threats stemming from legitimate domains, nearly double that recorded in 2007. Numerous mainstream websites were loaded with iFrames, malicious scripts that redirect visitors to malware-downloading sites.

The compromise of legitimate domains is all part of the bigger picture of increasingly sophisticated attacks which these days are usually tied to cybercrooks looking to turn a fast buck, rather than teenagers looking to make a name for themselves.

Vulnerabilities are the fodder of these cyberattacks - Cisco reports that vulnerabilities increased 11.5 per cent from 2007. One of the big growth areas in this overall figure was a rise in vulnerabilities involving virtualisation technology, which almost trebled from 35 last year to 103 in 2008.

Cisco has posted videos summarising the main findings of its report (here) and looking at botnets specifically, which it describes as the nexus of cybercrime, on YouTube (here). ®

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