We’ve got good news, and we’ve got bad news. The good news is that spam traffic is currently on the downturn. According to Kaspersky Labs’ report “Spam and Phishing In The First Quarter of 2015,” email spam traffic dropped to 59.2% in Q1 2015, down from 65% in Q4 2014.
Don’t start celebrating just yet, though – we’ve still got bad news to discuss. Even though the amount of spam on the web has lessened, the emergence of a number of new tricks and techniques means that what’s left is more dangerous than ever. In a 2014 survey of IT decision-makers, Kaspersky pointed to spam as the most common external security threat to companies, with 64% of respondents listing it as their most significant security threat – it is likely that this number has grown even larger in 2015.
In other words, spam is one of the most significant problems facing your business online, and you need to do everything in your power to defend against it.
“Spam is getting more and more dangerous for Internet users,” notes Kaspersky. “Cybercriminals are coming up with new tricks and are also reverting to the well-known but now forgotten methods. Thus, in the first quarter of 2015, the fraudsters used spam to distribute macro viruses, programs written in the macro languages built into data processing systems.”
“Malicious emails contained attachments with a .doc or .xls extension,” the firm continues. “These launched the VBA script when the attachment was opened, which then downloaded and installed other malicious programs.”
Another trend revealed by Kaspersky is the use of new generic Top-Level Domains to launch phishing attacks. The new gTLDs and domain registrars, such as the Google Domains program, make a number of new top-level domains available for registration, including .email, .coffee, and .shoes.
Unfortunately, the new gTLDs are a ripe target for spammers looking to launch illegitimate campaigns, says Kaspersky. Many sites on the new domains have been either registered/hacked by criminals or used in redirect chains that send users to spam sites.
“For [cybercriminals], new domains are an excellent tool for promoting illegitimate campaigns,” Kaspersky explains. “As a result, new domain zones almost immediately became an arena for the large-scale distribution of advertising spam, phishing and malicious emails.”
What Can You Do To Protect Your Business?
Alright, that’s enough doom and gloom. Now that we’ve (more or less) driven home the dangers of webspam, it’s time to talk about how you can protect yourself against it. How can you ensure you aren’t losing potential customers, intellectual property, or customer information to scammers and spammers?
- Educate Your Users: I’ll be blunt: where spam is concerned, it matters little how well-protected your business is. Spammers aren’t targeting your firewall. They’re targeting your employees. It thus falls to you to make sure they’re knowledgeable about the techniques and tactics spammers will utilize in an effort to gain access to your network.
- Make use of anti-spam technology: Install spam filters on your emails, and antivirus software on all corporate devices. This is the minimum of what you should do.
- Have a plan for when things go wrong: Even if you educate your employees, someone’s eventually going to make a mistake. Even the most cautious employee will occasionally access something they shouldn’t, whether a malicious email or a phishing website.
- Understand that some industries will be targeted more frequently than others: As noted in Kaspersky’s report, not all industries were targeted equally by spammers. If you operate in the finance, delivery, or insurance sector; you’re going to have to be more diligent.
The war between cybercriminals and the organizations they target has been raging for well over a decade now. As enterprise networks become more difficult to crack, criminals are going to have to resort to increasingly-craftier methods to compromise them. That more than anything is why spam will remain a persistent threat in enterprise, even if it does go down in volume:
Because no matter how well you secure a system, the user will always be the weakest link.