Yes, the spam problem is even worse than you thought. The 2013 Threat Report from information security solutions provider Websense suggests that only one in five emails sent worldwide is actually a legitimate communication. Even more alarming for IT pros? IT-related sites are the most common targets for malicious code injection and malware hosting.
Malware picture from Shutterstock
Of the mail Websense analysed, 76 per cent was spam. Effective anti-spam systems mean that many of us don't notice that the ratio is so high. The number is also a perverse tribute to the basic flexibility of our networks and efficiency of IT security staff: the fact that email remains a useful tool despite the overwhelming waves of crud attempting to drown it is tribute to our tenacity.
The theme of useful technologies being co-opted for criminal purposes is evident in other numbers as well. 85 per cent of malicious code on sites is found on legitimate web hosts that have been compromised, the report suggested. The most common target for hacking? A little surprisingly, it was sites dealing with IT — perhaps suggesting that the need for IT workers to have broader access to systems also creates new opportunities for breaking into those systems.
The Asia-Pacific region had the slowest growth rate for malicious web links, but when the bottom growth figure is 430 per cent, that's hardly cause for celebration. A high 32 per cent of malicious links sent with social media were created with URL shorteners, making it harder for casual observers to detect the final destination. (And remember: knowing that the domain looks authentic won't help if the destination site has been compromised.)