Vulnerabilities in software and social networking sites combined with a ‘dramatic' surge in spam were significant points of the last quarter of 2009.

According to the M86 Security Labs report for July-December 2009, last year ‘will be remembered as the year spam came back with a vengeance', as by the end of the year, the M86 Security Labs spam volume index had grown by 50 per cent, eclipsing pre-McColo levels.

The report said: “Spam continues to be a massive problem. Not only does spam consume valuable network resources, it remains a popular conduit for the distribution of malware, phishing and scams by cyber criminals. M86 Security Labs estimates that global spam volume is about 200 billion messages per day. Spam typically represents around 80-90 per cent of all inbound email to organisations.”

It said that throughout the year it had seen a consistent trend amongst the various spam types in its lab environment, with pharmaceutical spam dominating its categories with detections marking 74 per cent of all spam. This shows a continuation from the last report, which noted that pharmaceutical spam was making up 75 per cent of all spam.

Bradley Anstis, VP technical strategy at M86 Security, said: “It is important to identify the major contributors to the volume of spam so that the industry can take action against them, and our latest Security Labs report provides a detailed percentage of spam by botnet origin.

“At the same time, M86 wants to help security professionals remain vigilant in their own organisations against the increasing exploitation of trust on social networking sites. Users are more likely to click on links shared with them by senders they believe are their friends.”

The report also highlighted a surge in attacks through social networking sites such as Twitter because of the increased use of shortened URLs. It also claimed that zero-day application vulnerabilities, such as those within Internet Explorer and Adobe products are becoming just as prevalent as those seen in the operating systems themselves, as hackers take advantage of such application vulnerabilities.