Spam Traffic Returns after Holiday Break

Spam activity ceased almost completely over the holidays, but apparently vacation is over and spam is back in business.

Spammers are people too...apparently. They have families and want to take a vacation to spend quality time with them over the traditional holiday break just like everyone else. Or, at least that is the way that it appears if you follow the trends in spam traffic.

Spam volume dropped precipitously and inexplicably as of December 25. According to blog posts from both Symantec and Proofpoint, spam dropped to virtually zero beginning Christmas day and continued at that pace until this week. As of January 9, spam is once again alive and well.

The Symantec blog outlines the scenario, "On December 25, 2010, Rustock, the largest of the spam botnets, went quiet. Why this happened, we don't know but what we do know is that global spam levels dropped massively as a result. MessageLabs Intelligence analysts did not expect this respite to last, and sadly we were right."

Meanwhile, the Proofpoint blog expresses very similar sentiments. "As they say, all things come to an end and, as expected, the unusual lull in spamming activity between Christmas and the new year seems to have come to an end early today."

Proofpoint describes the resurgent spam content. "The messages here still seem pretty heavy on pharma spam, but there are a few items that are possible phish, also a larger number of Asian language messages."

What does that mean for you? Well, it means that the spam purveyors apparently gave the world a holiday gift in the form of a brief respite from the constant deluge of pointless, and often malicious e-mails. But, it also means that the death of spam was too good to be true, and that it is still too soon to be scrapping your anti-spam defenses.

Thankfully, most PC spam filtering tools do at least an adequate--if not admirable--job of identifying and blocking spam messages. I probably receive a hundred or more spam e-mails per day, but it's rare that any of them make it to my Inbox. As long as they get caught and redirected to the Junkmail folder, all is well and I can simply delete the contents of the folder and go on with life.

On smartphones and tablets, however, spam filtering is much less mature--if it exists at all. On both my iPhone and my iPad, e-mail messages that are filtered to Junkmail on my PC end up cluttering the Inbox because there is no spam filtering capability for these devices. One solution is to switch to Web-based e-mail such as Google's Gmail which has robust spam filtering features built in.

I guess we should just be thankful for the holiday break, and keep our fingers crossed that the spammers have big plans for Spring Break as well.

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Tags malwareintelphishingspamvirusessymantecproofpointantispammessagelabsspam blockers

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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