Spam falls, phishing rises as hackers change tack

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Volumes of spam and malicious domains are on the decline in cyberspace despite an increase in the number of phishing attacks, according to a report from cybersecurity vendor Trend Micro.

The change in attack patterns over the last year is thought to indicate a switch to "quality over quantity" by hackers, which falls in line with many other industry reports that show cyberattacks are becoming more complicated.

"Quality over quantity was a resounding theme in the 2014 threat landscape, reflected in part by the overall volume of malicious components we identified and blocked throughout the year," wrote Trend Micro.

"Web threats largely remained multicomponent in nature. However, as security events proved, attackers continued to fine tune their strategies even if these were not original to obtain not just more victims but more desirable ones."

Email reputation queries blocked as spam fell from 69 billion items in 2013 to 50 billion in 2014, whilst phishing sites doubled in number during the same time period.

However many other trends within spam were stable year-on-year, with English remaining the language of choice for scammers at 86% of all spam, and the US and Spain heading up the top spamming countries for another year.

Trend Micro also noted a move to Twitter and other social media networks for spammers, many of whom take advantage of interest in celebrity news and other events to misdirect victims to malicious sites.

"This is precisely why the ability to block malicious URLs, IP addresses, and domains is critical to an enterprise’s security arsenal," the firm explained.

"Should a spam slip through or use social media or Webmail, URL-blocking technology should be able to catch a user’s wayward click before it accesses a malicious remote location."

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