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There was a huge number of malware sent via email this past August and September, new research found.

The most significant growth was for drive-by attacks in which emails link to manipulated Web sites that infect the users’ computers when opened in a browser, said the research team from Eleven, a German email security provider.

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Between August and September, the number of those attacks went up more than 80 percent and their share of overall spam levels increased from 0.1% to 9.5%.

However, that growth was not at the expense of “classic” malware email, which contains malware as an attachment: the number of malware emails increased by 119% in September and by 252.8% compared to the same month in 2011.

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Virus outbreaks remained close to the previous month’s level (–5.7%), but increased by 50.5% in August. Outbreaks in September, however, rose 186.4% compared to September 2011.

Following strong growth in June and July, spam levels reduced somewhat in August and September: although levels remained at July’s high level in August (–1.4%), those levels declined by 36.5% in September. There was an absence of several major spam waves, especially in the second half of September, and which were responsible for the drop. Despite the decline, spam levels still remained above the values of the first five months of the year.

The main cause for the decline in spam was the absence of major spam waves from Saudi Arabia, which had significantly contributed to the spam growth in June and July.

In September, Saudi Arabia came in seventh in the ranking of countries of spam origin with 5.3% of all spam emails. That is quite a drop from the August results which had them in first place with a share of 28.9%. This September, India came in first with 16.4%, followed by Turkey (5.8%) and Spain, which jumped from 12 in August to third (5.6%). The U.S., the long-term spam leader, came in fifth with 4.3%.

One change in September was a wider distribution in spamming: while the five largest spam countries of origin were still responsible for significantly more than half of all spam emails in August (59.9%), that share fell to slightly more than one third in September (38.7%). In September, the share of top ten spamming countries was even slightly below the top five in August with 59.3%.

Shifts also occurred in September in terms of spam topics. One trend was a dramatic increase in the share of particularly dangerous e-mails. Drive-by mailings came in third in the category of spam topics with 9.5%; fraudulent scam emails increased from 0.2% to 2.1%. Advertisements for pharmaceutical products remained the most important spam topic, but their share decreased to 46.9% from 56.3%.

On an international scale, well-known and popular brands were the entre for malware and drive-by attacks. In addition to social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook, that also included Microsoft as well as the U.S. consumer protection organization Better Business Bureau.

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