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Levels of spam increase significantly in last quarter as Auto-Run malware overlaps Conficker for infections

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Volumes of spam have increased by 141 per cent over the past four months.

According to McAfee's Q2 Threats Report, this continues the longest streak of increasing spam volumes ever, with more than 14 million computers caught in criminal botnets.

The report also confirmed McAfee's first quarter prediction that the surge in botnet growth would send spam levels to new heights, surpassing their previous peak in October 2008 before the takedown of the spam-hosting ISP McColo.

The report also found that over the course of 30 days, Auto-Run malware had infected more than 27 million files. Auto-Run malware, which exploits Windows' Auto-Run capabilities, does not require any user clicks to activate, and is most often spread through portable USB and storage devices.

The rate of detection surpasses even that of the infamous Conficker worm by 400 per cent, making Auto-Run the number one piece of malware detected around the world.

Mike Gallagher, senior vice president and chief technology officer of McAfee Avert Labs, said: “The jump in bot and spam activity we saw in the last three months is alarming, and the threat from Auto-Run malware continues to grow. The expansion of these infections is a grave reminder of the potential harm that can be caused by unprotected computers in homes and businesses.”

Meanwhile the number of viruses sent over email has increased by 300 per cent in the last three months, according to Network Box. Its analysis of internet threats in July 2009 showed the number of viruses is at its highest so far this year, peaking at around 12 viruses per customer per hour.

It found that an increasing number of these viruses (5.2 per cent) are originating from India, which is the fourth largest source of internet threats behind the US (16.59 per cent), Brazil (14.11 per cent) and Korea (6.2 per cent).

Simon Heron, internet security analyst for Network Box, claimed that it was unsurprising that India is making inroads as a major threat source. He said: “India is a major economic force, with an increasing IT infrastructure and IT industry. A growing middle class with disposable income means an increasing take-up in computers and bandwidth.

“However, the economy remains difficult to regulate. This results in significant numbers of illegal copies of operating systems, which don't get patched or updated. They then become infected and so in turn become sources of malware.”

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