UK heads EU phishing league

Spam volumes drop, but the UK still tops the European phishing ranking.

The UK is still the top phishing target, despite confirming that spam levels temporarily declined after the demise of an American internet service provider (ISP).

This is according to a new web security report for the third quarter, which has found spam levels have fallen by eight per cent since August.

The report author and security firm, MessageLabs, said the decline was due, in large part, to the closure of California-based ISP Intercage on 20 September.

"Addresses on Intercage's network range were being used to host command and control channels for botnets," said Mark Sunner, MessageLabs chief security analyst. "In disrupting these botnets, the level of spam activity toward the end of September was severely impaired."

But he also said the dip would be short-lived, anticipating spammers looking to capitalise on the coming holiday season. "This time of year is notorious for increased levels of spam activity as spammers ramp up for the holiday season," Sunner said.

Spam levels in the UK spiked in September, topping the European geographical league table by reaching 66 per cent. Only Canada (68 per cent) and the US (72.4 per cent) fared worse.

And September also saw an increase of 0.2 per cent in the proportion of phishing attacks globally compared with the previous month. But when judged as a proportion of all email-borne threats such as viruses and Trojans, the number of phishing emails actually decreased by 29 per cent to 46 per cent of all email-borne malware threats intercepted in September. The firm said phishing levels for the quarter were now at their lowest level since the second quarter of 2006.

Analysis of the security firm's filtering service also found an increasing number of businesses are blocking employee access to inappropriate web sites, such as pornography, during the working day.

"Adult and sexually explicit web content accounted for 1.7 per cent of all web-based content blocked in September," Sunner said.

He said this was a sign that organisations have caught on to the dangers of the web and are doing their part to deploy services that will protect their business from web threats while also maintaining employee productivity and maintaining acceptable use policies.

Another highlight from the report suggested the extent of the affects of the Intercage outage with the fact that the amount of email-borne malware containing links to malicious sites dropped by 11 per cent in September to 6.3 per cent.

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