Gmail spam uses fake addresses to spread malware

Gmail spam is on the rise. Spammers are using fake Gmail accounts to clog up inboxes, making "" the most abused domain name, according to Commtouch's quarterly Internet Threats Trend Report, released Wednesday.

Only 1% of spam e-mails sent from Gmail addresses are actually from real Gmail accounts, and "this small percentage is likely to represent a mix of spammers and compromised Gmail accounts," Commtouch says.

Gmail now warns users of suspicious account activity

Overall, "between 5 to 10% of all spam appears to originate from Gmail accounts," Commtouch says. "Addresses are typically faked in order to fool anti-spam systems and to give the impression of a reputable, genuine source."

Spammers are becoming more skilled at using familiar domain names to fool users, and the trend is not limited to Gmail. "Gmail's message style, as well as those of PayPal and Facebook, is frequently used by spammers and phishers as standard templates to prompt action by targets of spam and phishing," Commtouch says.

Throughout the first three months of 2010, 83% of all e-mail traffic was spam, "peaking at nearly 92% near the end of March and bottoming out at 75% at the start of the year." On a daily basis, 305,000 zombie computers - devices taken over by hackers and joined to a botnet - are used to "inflict malicious activity," Commtouch said. Brazil produces the most zombie computers, 14% of the global total.

Not surprisingly, pornographic Web sites are the most likely to be infected with malware. What may be surprising to some Internet users is that porn wasn't the most frequently infected category before last quarter.

"'Pornography' has replaced 'business' as the Web site category most infected with malware," Commtouch said.

Pharmacy spam, advertising Viagra and other types of medications, represented 81% of all spam messages, about the same average as from the previous quarter.

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This story, "Gmail spam uses fake addresses to spread malware" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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