Malware reaches highest level in nine months

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The percentage of email-borne malware has reached its highest level in nine months.

Symantec's March 2009 MessageLabs Intelligence Report has revealed that email-borne malicious links are at the highest level since June 2008, and now almost 3,000 potentially harmful websites are being intercepted daily.

There has been a rise of almost 200 per cent in malicious websites on the web, with a resurgence seen in the use of images that contain injected scripts.

Symantec claimed that it appears to be an attempt to exploit a flaw in older browsers that appends the injected script to the end of the image's binary code, which can achieve monetary rewards through simulated online advertising.

MessageLabs intelligence senior analyst Paul Wood, said: "Having been focused on email tactics for the latter half of 2008 and early 2009, the cybercriminals are varying their strategies, and turning their attention toward web-related tactics, so as not to become too predictable. Their goals of financial gain and espionage remain the same, however."

Elsewhere, MessageLabs has seen an increase in genuine emails being sent by cash-strapped individuals who have turned to email as a means of seeking charitable assistance from some businesses. These messages are small in volume by comparison with the wider volume of spam and phishing emails, but seemingly equally liable to provoke an inflamed response from many recipients who believe they are fakes or scams.

Wood said: "The economy and other seasonal happenings, such as St. Patrick's Day and the US March Madness basketball tournament, remain predictable avenues for spammers, phishers and fraudsters to explore.

"It's not likely these spamming tactics will go away, but in the coming months we may see more non-traditional spamming techniques, like those from cash-strapped individuals seeking charity, begin to take hold."

The report also found that 61.6 per cent of all web-based malware intercepted was new in March, with an average of 2,797 new websites per day harbouring malware and other potentially unwanted programs such as spyware and adware. This was an increase of 197.2 per cent since February.

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