Global Spam Levels Drop Off Over Christmas

Internet security experts revealed today that there has been a sharp drop in the number of spam emails being sent globally in recent months – with the Christmas period seeing a particularly large drop-off.

In August, there were some 200 billion spam emails being sent worldwide every day. By December though, this had fallen to a mere 50 billion.

Symantec Hosted Solutions senior analyst Paul Wood told BBC News that over the Christmas period, several of the world’s biggest producers of spam severely cut back their activities, although “it is hard to say why”.

Mr Wood explained that one of the largest botnets – networks of malware infected computers that send spam – had experienced an especially large fall in spam volume. During the height of its powers the Rustock botnet was responsible for some 48 per cent of all spam worldwide. By late December this had fallen to just 0.5 per cent.

Around the same period, two other leading botnets, known as Lethic and Xarvester, had also largely ceased their activities.

When similar things have happened before, the action was “associated with the botnets being disrupted”. “As far as we can tell, Rustock is still intact,” Mr Wood told the BBC, suggesting that the spammers were simply marshalling their forces for a New Year spam campaign.

Websense researcher Carl Leonard said that some spammers were looking to social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to distribute spam, rather than email accounts, although he agreed with Mr Wood that spammers were not going to cease their activities in this medium any time soon.

“For years there have been predictions that email spam is set to decline,” Mr Leonard said. ”But for as long the spammers can generate profit from their activities, it’s not going away.”

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