Project Honey Pot 'celebrates' billionth spam message

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Dec 15, 2009

Facebook about to become most phished organization.

Few people would celebrate receiving a billion spam messages, but those at Project Honey Pot must have been a little proud when their billionth message arrived last week. After all, the purpose of the project is to collect as many spam messages as possible and use these to help those fighting spam.

In the five years since the project started, spammers have become more sophisticated in many different ways. Not only have they come up with almost 1,000 different ways to spell 'Viagra', the time it took them to harvest addresses from websites has more than halved to less than 22 days on average. Interestingly, 'fraud' spammers (those sending 419 or phishing scams) harvest and use addresses at a much faster rate than those sending 'product' spam.

The harvesting of addresses appears to happen using relatively permanent machines and addresses, closely related to the harvester's location. The top three countries in which harvesters are based are the United States, Spain and the Netherlands.

On the other hand, the locations from where spam is sent - which happens mostly through bots - say little about the location of the spammers, but by dividing the number of compromised machines by the number of IT security professionals working in the country, one gets a good picture of which countries have the best IT security. The list is topped by Finland, Canada and Belgium, with China, Azerbaijan and South Korea at the bottom of the list.

The content of a spam message shows a trend towards fraudulent spam, with phishing becoming more and more prominent; in fact, the billionth message received by Project Honey Pot was a phishing scam targeting the US Internal Revenue Service. Apart from banks and financial institutions, social network sites are increasingly targeted by such scams, with Facebook currently the second-most phished organization, and on track to take the top spot in 2010.

Finally, Project Honey Pot has been looking into comment spam, targeting, for instance, blogs. Comment spam still lags behind email spam in quantity and sophistication but if comment spammers follow the same route as email spammers, they could pose a significant threat to websites.

More details can be found at the Project Honey Pot website here, with details on how to help the project here.

Posted on 15 December 2009 by Virus Bulletin

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