Postini: Over 3/4ths of 2005 Email Was Spam

Email filtering and antispam service Postini has published its annual message outlining the risks and threats businesses and individuals face from email and other forms of messaging. Their findings: from 75 to 80 percent of all email traffic they monitored was spam, 2.5 percent of inbound mail contained viruses, and the Sober worm alone accounted for more than 218 million virus-infected messages during 2005, making it the largest virus attack on record.

Postini handles message processing for more than 35,000 businesses and internet service providers, and based its findings on data from its global data centers which currently process an average of a billion messages a day. The report finds that email, instant messaging, and mobile messaging make security issues more complicated, and both spam and phishing attacks are becoming increasingly more complex. “We expect that the growth of more sophisticated and damaging threats, the proliferation of new communication channels, and the archiving and compliance demands of new policies and regulations will converge in 2006 to produce a ‘tidal wave’ of demands that threaten to overwhelm messaging administrators and security managers,” said Quentin Gallivan, Postini’s president and CEO.

Although spam traffic remained at high levels, Postini found overall spam levels dipped toward the end of 2005 in preference to virus-laden email messages (again, in no small part from the Sober worm) and phishing scams. For the year, Postini found phishing, frauds, and scams accounted for 27 percent of all spam email. Phishing scams seem to have peaked during mid-2005, reaching a peak shortly after a well-publicized attack against Credit Services International in May 2005 which compromised account information for more than half a million credit card records.

Postini also reports attacks borne on instant messaging networks increased 1700 percent during 2005, with 57 percent of attacks flowing through MSN Messenger, 34 percent through AOL, and 9 percent through Yahoo Messenger.

On a positive note, Postini noted that businesses and individuals are increasingly utilizing email encryption technologies, with email encryption enjoying a nearly ten-fold increase during 2005. According to Postini, 22 percent of all inbound email was encrypted by the end of 2005, and the number of outbound connections encrypted using TLS (Transport Layer Security) has doubled.