Volume of Spam and Viruses still rapidly increasing
This year's rampage of phishing scams is "just the tip of the iceberg," according to a message security firm's analysis of 2004 and its predictions for 2005, both released this week.
MessageLabs tracked a mere 279 phishing emails in September 2003, but a year later, monitored more than two million in the same month. During November 2004, MessageLabs tallied a whopping 4.52 million phishing-related messages.
Among the evidence that phishers are stepping up their tactics and applying even more effective technologies, she said, are 2004 scams that didn't require user intervention.
Users who only opened a malicious email had their systems modified so that the next time they surfed to their bank's online site, the browser was redirected to a fake address where their login information was captured and invisibly sent to the attacker. The hacker could then empty the account at will.
According to MessageLabs' statistics, the number of phishing attacks really didn't take off until July 2004, when the number of scam-style messages nearly jumped ten-fold from the previous month.
Next year will also see a leap in the number of scams targeted at specific organisations and companies, Staley said. "Blackmail and extortion will be even more popular next year," she predicted.
Virus-laden messages also increased in 2004, MessageLabs reported, to the point where the year's average was one infected message in every 16, a doubling of 2003's ratio of 1 in 33. In 2002, only one in every 212 messages contained malicious code.
Spam, on the other hand, looks like it may have peaked as a percentage of all messages. But not for the right reasons. "Frankly, there's not much farther spam could go," said Staley, who noted that in July, 94.5 percent of all mail that MessageLabs processed was tagged as spam. Spam accounted for "only" 73.8 percent of all mail in November, but that was still higher than the 63 percent of the year's beginning.
"Spam will stay at around 60 to 80 percent of mail in 2005," Staley predicted.