The US Open tennis tournament is done, the kids are back in school, hurricanes are racing up the eastern U.S. coastline, you have already expended the positive benefit from your recent vacation and Walmart has put out the Halloween stuff: good grief, summer must be over! Looking back at some of the major events and news stories of the last 3 months, it is becoming clearer that many of the email security trends identified are playing out as suggested.
The “Summer of Spam”
Our Security Operations team and those of all industry players observed the highest volumes of spam ever. We are accustomed to a summer bump, often due to students earning extra bucks by doing some spamming on the side. However, this was different, and much nastier. There were huge waves containing malware, including a particularly malevolent one with attached html. Blended threats (links leading to compromised sites that deliver trojans or malware) were also on the rise. Things seem to have cooled down recently, but the overal trend continues upward.
Intel buys McAfee
Consolidation in the industry continued, but this was a little different. In the past we saw larger players in security swallowing up smaller ones, effectively buying the revenues and precipitating liquidation events. Intel however seems to have made a bold move into security, moving it “closer to the metal and seeking a partner with a strong commercial/consumer channel: enter McAfee. The best explanation for the move I read was by Jon Stokes of Ars Technica. Intel’s strategy reminded me of an excellent article I had read by Fred Cohen of the California Sciences Institute. In it Cohen argues that while our thinking around the latest computer security salvation evolves from the OS, to security kernels and beyond, and now down to the hardware (with Intel’s move), the truth is that we are only just starting to get comfortable understanding the trade-offs involved in security and how badly we actually want it.
Salesforce.com says email is counter-productive
A survey commissioned by Salesforce.com claims that most email is irrelevant. Makes a lot of sense, as most email users over copy or communicate things that are already well known, or respond by simply doing the classic “cya”. We have technology to filter for spam and malware, perhaps it’s time for a “relevancy” filter.
Google launches Priority Inbox
Amazing what happens when the Google marketing engine gets behind something. For a few days last week you couldn’t hit a blog or tweet that did not have some kind of mention of Google’s priority inbox. Great, and quite old (in Net time) idea. Execution? Not so great. Asking a little too much of users to spend time tagging the messages “up” or “down” to help determine whether they should be included or not. This is a very interesting, and very complex, technical problem. Others have tried this, but the world is still waiting for a good solution to managing the massive amount of info flowing in through email … What impact might this have on spammers or even email marketers? Certainly both groups will have to adjust their methods, and we have seen them able to adapt in the past, especially spammers.
Apple launches iTunes 10 and “Ping”, your spam is ready!
I don’t feel so bad when I see even the big boys getting it wrong with spam. Too many examples recently of Facebook, Google, Twitter and others launching new products and initiatives that just end up flooding their users with spam. Install iTunes 10, join Ping, and presto, you have suddenly become the target of a huge number of malevolent scammers. Are you sure you want to fill out that survey that promises you a chance at a new free iPhone 4?
Spam volumes temporarily down, then up again
The recent takedown of <INSERT NAME OF BAD ISP HERE> or neutralization of <INSERT NAME OF NOTORIOUS BOTNET HERE> resulted in a reduction of <INSERT SIGNIFICANT PERCENTAGE HERE> in the volume of spam. Within weeks of the takedown volumes were back to previous levels, and resumed their steady increase. Maybe a little too tongue and cheek (btw, I am referring to the Pushdo botnet), but the main point here is that this is an on-going war and there is a lot of horse-power, and now even brain-power, on the side of the bad guys.
First SMS trojan targeting Android phones detected
Admit it, you knew the first one was going to be on Android. Regardless, it won’t be long before other significant ones are developed for iPhone and Blackberry (although the drop in Blackberry market share might actually save it from being a target). The battle field is moving.
Sophos caught using a marketing company that was spamming
Careful what friends you choose! Sophos hired a company to help with marketing that ended up flooding blogs with comment spam. Definitely ironic, and painful for Sophos. We tread carefully, especially when it comes to email communications to our customers, prospects and partners. These groups must first provide their consent to be opted in to the communications and they must also have a simple and visible opt-out, no compromises.
GFI buys Sunbelt software
GFI is one of the giants of the industry and they picked one of the smaller and growing players, Sunbelt software. The product lines seem to be fairly complementary. I always admired Sunbelt for having built their technology from scratch (and not borrowed it) and was happy to see that they were satisfied with their exit.
Spammers moving to disposable domains
Yet another mechanism used to try to trick blacklists and reputation systems. This will only increase the challenge for various *BLs and reputation systems to keep up, and also underlines that solid content-filtering remains an important part of the equation.
So, what were the stories and trends that caught your eye during the “Summer of Spam?”.