Feeds

Google: botnet takedowns fail to stem spam tide

'If one goes offline, spammers buy, rent, or deploy another'

Security for virtualized datacentres

Spam levels have remained resolutely stable despite recent botnet takedowns, according to a survey from Google's email filtering business.

Google Postini reports no lasting effect from the recent takedown of spam-spewing botnet, such as Mariposa and Mega-D. The command-and-control servers associated with the Mega-D botnet were isolated towards the end of 2009, effectively decapitating one of the top-10 junk mail sources.

Early this year, government agencies and security firms teamed up to take-down several other botnet targets - including Waledac, Mariposa, and Zeus - using similar tactics. The operations are these botnets were either curtailed (Mariposa) or severely hampered in the process (Zeus).

These combined efforts have failed to make much difference in the volumes of spam circulating online. Spam and virus levels did dip down 12 per cent from a Q409 high but held "relatively steady" throughout the first quarter of 2010, Google Postini reports.

"This suggests that there’s no shortage of botnets out there for spammers to use," a blog post by Postini researchers notes. "If one botnet goes offline, spammers simply buy, rent, or deploy another, making it difficult for the anti-spam community to make significant inroads in the fight against spam with individual botnet takedowns."

The Google spam filtering division concludes that going after botnets is no more effective than the previous tactic of targeting rogue ISPs. The takedown of rogue ISP 3FN bought a temporary respite from the spam deluge for about a month. However, after Real Host, another ISP, was taken out months later spam volumes recovered after only two days. The marked difference was due to use of improved disaster recovery approaches by cybercriminals.

Google's conclusions are based on an analysis of spam volumes flowing into the email in-boxes of 18 million business users working for of 50,000 organisation protected by Postini's technology. Analysis of the junk mail traffic blocked by Google's technology also shows a 30 per cent increase in the size of individual spam messages toward the end of March - signs of a possible resurgence in the use of image spam - and the use of natural disasters (such as the Haiti earthquake) and celebrity gossip in a bid to persuade recipients to waste time on junk mail messages, some of which form the kick-off point of financial fraud.

The prevalence of malware within spam, which rose from 0.3 per cent at the start of 2009 to 3.7 per cent in the second half of last year, fell back to 1.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2010. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.