Email Spam Slips As Social Networking Spawns New Security Threats

Given the rise in popularity of social networking, this should come as no surprise: the percentage of email that is spam has dropped slightly, but junk marketing and malware spreading through social networking sites are on the rise.

According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, which was released today, while the volume of malicious attacks is on the rise, spam is less of a factor than it used to be.

“We’ve seen spam volumes go down in 2011,” Sean Kopelke, director specialist solutions for Symantec, told Lifehacker. “On a global level, they were 75 per cent of all email in 2011, they were 86% in 2010 So that’s down a considerable amount.”

While legal action against some major spamming infrastructure providers played its part, the report fingers the shift in our communications habits as a major issue. “We’re seeing a shift of attackers moving to social network platforms, instead of trying to get people to click on a link through a random name in email,” Kopelke said. “People have become a little more conscious of that, and I think anti-spam tools have been effective in reducing the impact. So we’re seeing a movement to social network platforms. Because it’s a social interaction with friends, people are a bit more relaxed around security processes.”

Kopelke also highlighted the widespread misconception that targeted attacks are exclusively aimed at large businesses. “So many people think this is a problem for large institutions while a small business isn’t going to get attacked. That is simply not true. Organisations of all sizes are getting attacked. Fifty per cent of all attacks were aimed at businesses with fewer than 2500 employees, and 18 per cent of those were aimed at companies with fewer than 250 staff. Many of these businesses are targeted because while small themselves, they are often part of the supply chain connected to much larger organisations. You’re going to look for the weakest chain in that link.”

While Facebook, Twitter and other social networking platforms incorporate security measures, a cautious attitude to clicking on links goes a long way. To ensure you don’t become a victim of “social” attacks, check out our guide to staying safe on social networks.


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