It has recently been revealed that spam emails are now on the decline and we can expect fewer of them to come our way in the future. The decline has been attributed to more vigorous legal action, although spam emails still remain popular for cyber criminals working in Eastern Europe and some parts of Asia.
The security company Symantec stated in a reported that the number of spam emails being received was at a 12 year low and that the spam rate has now decreased to just over 49%; one has to go way back to 2003 to find figures close to this.
The number of scam emails has been decreasing since 2010, in part due to the efforts of law enforcement agencies. In the UK a push to close down botnets (devices that have been infiltrated and taken over by cyber-criminals), has contributed to the fall in spam emails, with most of the botnets being targeted using spam emails in their activities. Credit should also be given to email providers for successfully filtering spam.
An Evolving Threat?
Whilst this decline in spam is encouraging news, showing that the force of law can lead to positive changes online, the report does emphasise that a number of threats to data security still remain undiminished.
The firm stated that the amount of malware being created was on the rise, with over 57 million new pieces of malware made in June alone. The report confirmed that ransomware attacks (when data is held by a cyber criminal until a victim pays up), were also on the rise – with 477,000 discovered last month. Furthermore, spam has been reported to be disproportionately targeting smaller businesses. This suggests smaller firms are still not prioritising information security and are not as sophisticated when it comes to safeguarding their employees from cyber criminality.
Symantec’s report suggests that cyber criminals are choosing more sophisticated methods of carrying out criminal activity online. As individuals become more aware of the telltale signs of suspicious looking emails, cyber criminals have seen their spam email ventures become less profitable. The decline in spam emails might therefore be as much down to the preference of cyber criminals as to the endeavours of law enforcers.
This most recent report is just one of many and some other cyber security investigations have uncovered a less ‘rosy’ picture when it comes to the future of spam email. Intel Security released their McAfee Labs Threats Report, which states that there has been 6 trillion spam emails in circulation during the first three months of this year. The report also states that there has been a significant rise in ransomware attacks in the first quarter of this year, as a cause of a new ransomware family, CTB-Locker.
For some, the fact that nearly 50% of all emails sent are scam might come as quite a shock. The figure certainly demonstrates the momentous risks all businesses and individuals face online. Such numbers demonstrate just how dangerous a place the internet can be. These figures and statistics can be misleading because they mask the long term consequences these criminal activities can have on businesses. These reports turn each individual experience into a neat statistic, when in reality the effects of such scams can be devastating. It should not be forgotten that hundreds of thousands of businesses are still affected by these scams.