The impact of the Rustock takedown

Spam levels may have dropped as a result of the Rustock takedown, but what will be the long term impact of the Microsoft-led operation?

ANALYSIS Many security pros have been speculating about the impact of the Rustock botnet takedown.

Microsoft revealed last week how it had worked with various organisations in bringing down the massive botnet and it appears spam levels have taken a big hit.

Symantec data showed spam volume on 17 March had fallen 40.4 per cent when compared to a week earlier.

IBM, meanwhile, said it had seen a decline of between 35 and 40 per cent in global spam levels and suggested it was likely the Rustock shut down would have a "sustained impact on the total volume of spam."

Geographically, the US saw a huge fall in spam, largely because most of the servers Rustock relied on were based in the country.

Before the botnet's takedown, the US was the second most common source of spam, but following Microsoft's successful operation, it fell to 15th as output fell by 74 per cent. The UK saw its spam output fall by 54 per cent.

Big Blue did point out, however, the reduction in spam was only around half as significant as the fall that occurred in the latter stages of 2010 when spammers appeared to take a holiday.

So what impact has the apparent death of Rustock had?

A new precedent

Let's be clear: no one can be sure about the future of spam levels after this. Security researchers, no matter how adamant they are, can only hypothesise.

However, the common belief is spam always rebounds and that is the likelier outcome.

In the short term, there is little doubt spam levels will remain low, and the geographic situation looks likely to be shaken up, given the US has fallen so sharply in the spam output ratings.

We'll just have to wait and see what happens in the long term globally.

What's really exciting about the assassination of Rustock though is the collaboration that went into it. You'd hope there would be a knock on effect, inspiring others to come together in the war against botnets.

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