Spam levels have begun to rise in the New Year after the McColo ISP was shut down late last year.

 

In its January 2009 MessageLabs Intelligence Report, Symantec‘s analysis has highlighted an increase of 4.9 per cent in spam levels of since December 2008 to 74.6 per cent, reaching levels close to those experienced before internet service provider McColo was taken down in November 2008.

 

The company claimed that among the top ten botnets responsible for distributing spam, Mega-D (Ozdoc) had the highest throughput in January, sending more than 26 million spam emails per minute, whilst Cutwail (Pandex) remains the largest botnet with more than one million active IPs this month.

 

Paul Wood, senior analyst at MessageLabs, claimed that when McColo was taken offline a huge drop in spam was seen and although other botnets will eventually fill the gap, nothing has succeeded yet.

 

Wood said: “Despite this, there has been a steady rise in spam. We have also seen the Storm virus come back as Waledac, though at the moment it is in a embryonic state and we don't know how or what it will be used for, if the value of spamming will be changed then it can be used for DNS and denial of service attacks, or to host websites.”

 

Wood claimed that whilst Waledac malware was spread at an alarming rate in January, it was dispersing spam in relatively small volumes. He claimed that for now, botnet controllers are clearly focusing on growing and developing this new botnet resource rather than using it to spam, and that it will be one to watch as 2009 progresses.

 

Elsewhere, there has been a resurgence of stock spam for the first time in a year, when stock spammer Alan Ralsky was indicted, with MessageLabs identifying many examples of spam messages sent from legitimate-looking email addresses touting ‘penny stocks'.

 

Wood said: “Just one month into 2009 and the threat landscape already appears to be in full swing. Toward the end of 2008, MessageLabs predicted a botnet renaissance in which the cybercriminals would improve the technology behind their botnets, creating a new vanguard. Based on the increase in power, numbers and new bots, the cybercriminals seem to be living up to the prediction.”