New Delhi: India was among the top 10 sources of spams in February, accounting for 3.4% of spams distributed globally in that month, said a report by security firm Kaspersky Lab on Monday.
The highest proportion of spams came from China (23%), followed by the US (19.1%) and South Korea (12.8%). India ranked sixth.
Social networking sites remained the most popular phishing targets, email services were second and financial and e-pay organizations came third, said the report.
Spammers and cyber criminals took advantage of Valentine’s Day in particular to target victims across the globe.
“A lot of malicious attachments in February’s spam came in emails allegedly sent by women who wanted to make new friends in the run-up to Valentine’s Day,” the report said.
“Some attackers went even further by trying to hook recipients with the promise of explicit photos in archives attached to messages. There were also more conventional malicious mass mailings imitating fake notifications from popular social networking sites, including Facebook.”
February’s love-themed malicious spam was dominated by trojans, which installed two malicious programmes on a system—one to steal all document files from the computer and the other to carry out distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on websites which makes a machine or network unavailable to the targeted user.
If recipients respond to this sort of email, their computer can easily become part of a botnet, a collection of Internet-connected programmes communicating with other similar programmes in order to perform tasks such as sending spam email or participate in DDoS attacks.
A trojan is a computer programme containing malicious code which can cause loss or theft of data, and possible system harm.
In addition to trojan spyware, malicious spam included ransomware—a type of malware that blocks the user’s computer and then demands money to unblock it. The explicit photos also turned out to be malicious programmes and among them was the Andromeda backdoor that allows cybercriminals to secretly control a compromised computer.
“Spammers are becoming more intelligent in masking their messages under the garb of offering something genuine to the recipients—be it Valentine’s Day discount or news about Ukraine, etc. And once unsuspecting users have clicked or downloaded the email attachment, Trojans are downloaded without the user’s knowledge, which are capable of stealing data or even holding the data at ransom (encrypting the data and demanding money to decrypt the data, like CryptoLocker),” said Altaf Halde, Managing Director, Kaspersky Lab—South Asia.
“Internet users in India should start taking their digital security seriously. With the number of threat vectors increasing alarmingly along with the rise of cybercriminal activities, it is imperative that Internet users in India protect themselves with genuine Internet security or anti-virus software. The government should initiate spam laws that will deter spammers from making India their safe havens.”
The proportion of spam in email traffic in February was almost 70%, the report said.