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Spam and phishing levels drop last month

17 February 2011 - 11:47 by Paul Tissington

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Consumers were given the unexpected post-Christmas gift of a much welcome lull in the assault of spam emails and fraudulent phishing websites in January, according to security firm, Symantec.

The volumes of both spam and phishing campaigns were down by 16 per cent when compared with December 2010, signalling a relatively quiet start to 2011 for the cybercriminals and ensuring that more people could enjoy safe shopping online, without the fear of being scammed.

A large botnet which had been used to pump out millions of spam messages via its infected slave computers, was taken down at the end of last year and Symantec is attributing the drop in spam and phishing to this event.

The protests in Egypt which started at the end of last month, had a secondary effect of entirely eliminating the spam which is generated in that particular nation, as the authorities sought to control internet usage among the wider population.

Despite the good news about spam levels falling, the experts are now convinced that the steady drop in spam volumes has finally hit rock bottom and most expect to see an increase over the coming months.

This month, consumers are advised to be particularly weary as analysis suggests there will be a marked increase in the number of fraudulent emails being sent out by criminal groups. The levels have not risen since August last year.

Symantec believes that 2011 as a whole will be a generally slow year when it comes to spam and phishing, which ultimately leaves consumers facing a mixed outlook. Safe shopping online via major portals like Amazon and Play.com, will continue to be the best way for people to avoid being stung, but some bargains are too tempting to pass up and spammers will continue to prey on this weakness.