What kind of mugs do you take us for? Malicious sites in spam scams target UK

Blighty tops phishermen's friend index

chalk outline of  human body at crime scene

Spam destined for recipients in the UK is almost three times more likely to contain a malicious URL than unsolicited email sent to the United States.

Unsolicited email in Germany and France is significantly less likely than mail sent to the US to contain malicious URLs. This means that, on average, an unsolicited email sitting in the inbox of a user in the UK is more than five times more likely to contain a malicious URL than an email received by a user in Germany.

The figures are based on an analysis of email threats by email security firm Proofpoint. The study ran for three weeks during the summer, during which the firm's systems analysed one billion URLs each day.

Proofpoint reckons the UK is bearing the brunt of attacks because its defences are weaker and profit-focused cybercrooks are therefore concentrating on it.

Kevin Epstein, VP of Advanced Security & Governance at Proofpoint, said the high percentage of malicious emails in junkmail flooding British inboxes suggests "cybercriminals have found UK organisations to be an unusually lucrative targets" for financially motivated scams. He doesn't think the high rates are down to cyber-spying aimed at stealing corporate data and secrets but are due to regular online crime.

"The attacks are clearly financially motivated," Epstein told El Reg. "In the case of financial (vs political or espionage-related attacks), we've historically seen higher volumes of attacks targeted at regions that generate more success for the attackers – to quote, 'because that's where the money is'."

With the US as a baseline, Germany receives more spam as a percentage of all email than the US, the UK and France, but only 30 per cent more spam than the US, so this difference conspicuously fails to explain why Blighty was hammered by spam-based scams over the summer.

"Bottom line - the UK is being attacked significantly more than the US, yet doesn't historically have lower click rates, and has more legacy secure email gateways deployed (eg, more old tech)," Epstein concluded.

A blog post by Proofpoint - featuring graphs and screenshots of scam emails - can be found here. ®

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