We are releasing today our bi-annual Threat Report for 2H 2011. The report relies on M86 Security Labs analysis of spam and malware activity, including the current use of exploit kits, fraudulent digital certificates and social networking schemes. Key points from the M86 Security Labs for the second half of 2011 are:
1. Targeted attacks became sophisticated and pursued a wider range of organizations, including commercial, national critical infrastructure and military targets.
2. Use of stolen or fraudulent digital certificates has become more common, especially as part of targeted attacks.
3. In several targeted attacks, malware was hidden by embedding itself in various file formats—with a few cases of multiple embedding layers. This method can evade security software that fails to scan deep enough.
4. Blackhole has become the most prevalent exploit kit in the second half of 2011 with a huge margin over other exploit kits. Some of the exploit kits which were active in the past are rarely used now or were practically abandoned.
5. Newer versions of Blackhole are being deployed first in Eastern Europe. Its authors increased its update frequency and added new exploits and tricks to evade detection, such as checking the software version on the client machine before attempting to exploit it.
6. Fake social media notifications are now a mainstream way for spammers to dupe users into clicking links.
7. Facebook continues to be a conduit for spam and malware, as many campaigns are spreading virally by enticing users to share posts that promise gift cards or other rewards.
8. Hacked, but otherwise legitimate, websites played a major role in distributing spam and malware by redirecting browsers to the ultimate destination.
9. Malicious Web content currently exploits more than 50 vulnerabilities in various software products. The most commonly exploited products are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Oracle Java, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Office products.
10. The overall volume of spam continued to decline in 2011, reaching a four-year low in December 2011.
11. Eight spamming botnets were responsible for 90% of the spam monitored by M86 Security Labs. All of these botnets are familiar and have been established for some time.
12. The proportion of malicious spam rose in the second half of the year from less than 1% to 5%, including a massive spike in malicious attachments in August and September. Later in the year, the focus shifted from malicious attachments to malicious links that led to exploit kits, in particular, the Blackhole exploit kit.
13. Some noticeable wins by law enforcement authorities and researchers against cybercriminals, botnets and affiliate programs like fake AV and rogue online pharmacies, took place this year.
14. Malicious Web content hosted in China targets mostly older versions of Internet Explorer, which is popular in that country.
15. Almost half of the global malicious Web content is hosted in the U.S. The states hosting most malware are Florida, California, Texas and Washington.
The report provides statistics about the geographical distribution of web-based malware, about the most commonly used exploits and about the prevalence of exploit kits. Statistics about spam categories and spam botnets are also provided. In addition to these statistics, the report includes eleven featured articles about current cyber threats and ends with recommendations for administrators, Website owners and end users.
The M86 Security Labs Report can be downloaded from http://m86.it/2HSecReport.
We hope you find the information in this report useful.
M86 Security Labs