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The Deadly Duo: Spam and Viruses, August 2003

  |  September 8, 2003   |  Comments

The monthly ratio remains unchanged, but many e-mail users would prefer to clean toilets than wade through junk in their inboxes.

The spam volume held steady at 50 percent through August 2003, with no measurable change from July, according to measurements from Brightmail’s Probe Network.

While the amount of unwanted messages doesn’t seem to be waning any time soon, it’s encouraging that the saturation hasn’t increased. The largest monthly spam growth was in the "Internet" category — jumping from 7 percent in July to 11 percent in August — and the largest decrease was in the "health" category. "Adult" oriented messages declined 2 percentage points.

August 2003 Spam Category Data
Type of Spam July August Change
Internet 7% 11% +4
Other 14% 16% +2
Scams 9% 10% +1
Products 20% 20% 0
Spiritual 1% 1% 0
Financial 15% 14% -1
Leisure 8% 7% -1
Adult 14% 12% -2
Health 12% 9% -3
Source: Brightmail’s Probe Network

The depth of disgust for spam is evidenced in a Yahoo Mail survey of nearly 28,000 Internet users revealing that 77 percent found it less aggravating to clean toilets than to wade through the junk messages in their email. Of those respondents who think spammers should be punished, 30 percent think they should receive stiff fines, and 8 percent think they should do jail time.

One-in-five preferred to achieve balance by inundating spammers with junk mail at their own home, and a quarter of respondents were more forgiving, saying that spam was merely a job, and spammers should be spared punishment.

Enterprises are being deluged as well, and Ferris Research conservatively expects over 40 spam messages will be received per day for business users by 2008, with 5 percent of business users receiving between 130 and 400 spam messages per day.

The Yankee Group found that 82 percent of businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and 85 percent of larger organizations have been victimized by spam, making unwanted messages the number one security breach. The survey found that viruses were equally as threatening as spam for 85 percent of the 500+ employee organizations, and more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the smaller businesses agreed. August was particularly unbearable for email users, breaking the record for most digital attacks in a month.

Global virus epidemics for August included Worm/MiMail.A, Worm/Lovsan.A (Blaster) + variants, Worm/Nachi.A, Worm/Dumaru.A and Worm/Sobig.F. Steven Sundermeier, vice president of products and services at Central Command, Inc., comments on the monthly volume: "The month of August turned into a plague of Internet worms affecting computer users worldwide. Multiple aggressive Internet worms, made it the worst month in history for the number of infections reported, impacted organizations and lost productivity."

Central Command found that Sobig.F related emails accounted for nearly 73 percent of all email when the virus was peaking. "The extremely aggressive spreading nature of Sobig.F created significant volumes of email traffic causing email networks around the world to collapse," said Sundermeier.

August 2003 Dirty Dozen
Rank Virus Percentage
1. Worm/Sobig.F 76.8%
2. Worm/Lovsan.A (Blaster) 6.4%
3. Worm/MiMail.A 5.1%
4. Worm/Nachi.A 4.0%
5. Worm/Klez.E (including G) 2.1%
6. Worm/Dumaru.A 2.0%
7. Worm/Sobig.A 0.9%
8. Worm/BugBear.B 0.7%
9. W32/Sircam.A 0.6%
10. Worm/Yaha.E 0.5%
11. Worm/Sobig.C 0.4%
12. Worm/Sobig.E 0.2%
Others 0.3%
Note: The table above represents the most prevalent
viruses for August 2003, number one being the most frequent.
Source: Central Command, Inc.

Brightmail defines the categories as follows:

  • Internet- or computer-oriented emails are those that advertise related products or services, such as Web hosting, or design.
  • "Other" encompasses miscellaneous messages that do not pertain to any of the specified categories.
  • Scam messages contain fraudulent or intentionally misguiding content.
  • Product-oriented messages advertise general goods or services.
  • Spiritually oriented messages include offerings for psychics, organized religion, and astrology.
  • Financial marketing messages are those that make reference to money, the stock market, credit reports, loans, and investments.
  • Leisure-related messages are those advertising prizes, awards, discounted travel, online games and casinos.
  • Adult-oriented spam refers to offerings for offensive or inappropriate material, intended for persons over the age of 18.
  • The health category offers health-related products or services, such as herbal remedies or medical treatments.


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