In cooperation with federal law enforcement, Microsoft has announced they managed to take out the prolific Rustock botnet. Rustock was responsible for almost half of the spam in 2010, and its command and control system was highly complicated. Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit spent months investigating the botnet, eventually working with US Marshals to physically seize servers.
As if most malware weren't crafty enough, there are signs that indicate a certain amount of conspiring between attackers, making the latest threats even more difficult to detect. What's more, February proved a particularly busy month for malware, with Trojans, botnets, and spam all seemingly on the rise compared to previous months.
In an effort to deal with the perceived issue with low-quality content spam in search results, Google updated it algorithm last week. While that sounds all well and good on the surface, it has caused a headache for some legitimate sites that got caught up in the dragnet. Sites like Cult of Mac and Buzzle have found themselves with little remaining Google Juice. Google has said it is aware of the issues, and will work to correct these issues.
For the last few months, Google has been dealing with the changing tides of public opinion. Many sites and pundits have started calling The Big G out for search results that seem to be increasingly filled with so-called "content farms". These are sites run by the likes of Demand Media that create huge amounts of (sometimes) low-quality articles directed at getting search hits. Now, with a new Chrome extension Google has started fighting back in earnest.
According to Google's Matt Cutts, a new search algorithm is going live as we speak that will be the first step in combating the spam search results problem. This change to the algorithm specifically targets sites that copy or scrape content from other sites, and amp it up with Google-friendly SEO. Now users should be more likely to see results from the site that a piece of content originates on, instead of a spam site that just copied it.
This change will only directly affect about 2% of searches, and only 0.5% will change dramatically enough for most people to notice. Clearly, this is not meant to completely solve the issue of highly efficient SEO spam. But it is a solid first step, and we're happy to see it get rolled out so quickly. More algorithm changes should come along in the future as well.
Facebook alone claims over 500 million active members, though it's far from the only social networking site on the Web. Social networking is the hottest trend right now, and according to security firm Sophos, scammers and spammers haven taken notice.
Sophos recently surveyed 1,273 users and asked how many had encountered spam, phishing attacks, or malware attacks as a result of social networking. The result? Significant rises in all three categories.
Two-thirds of respondents said they received spam, up from 57 percent one year ago. Phishing attacks rose from 30 percent in December 2009 to 43 percent in December 2010, while malware infestations affected 40 percent of respondents, up from 35 percent one year prior.
"Rogue applications, clickjacking, survey scams – all unheard of just a couple of years ago, are now popping up on a daily basis on social networks such as Facebook," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Why aren't Faceboook and other social networks doing more to prevent spam and scams in the first place? People need to be very careful they don’t end up being conned for their personal details, or get tricked into clicking on links that could earn money for cybercriminals or infect innocent computers."
The vast majority -- 82 percent -- said that Facebook posed the biggest risk to security, but does it really? Not according to Sophos, which named the onMouseOver Twitter attack the biggest social networking worm of 2010.
If you noticed your spam folder was a bit lighter this holiday season you aren’t alone, according to the BBC the global level of email spam has fallen dramatically over the past few months. According to a new report, the volume of unsolicited emails has been in a steady decline since August, and December results are the lowest on records. A steady decline is what we like to hear, but just how much you ask?
Based on numbers out of Symantec the amount of spam messages has dropped from close to 250 billion in late July, to slightly under 50 billion in December. Some of the decreases can be attributed to recent arrests, and a growing sense of awareness around the dangers of spam, but researchers still don’t fully understand why the decline has been so steep. One of the most active botnets for example which has typically been responsible for as much as 48% of all global spam leveled off at just 0.5%.
Spammers might just be regrouping for a massive new campaign, so enjoy the peace and quiet while it lasts.
Some Facebook users are getting a troubling error message today when they try to post links to the social networking site. Links shortened with j.mp (a bit.ly run service) are causing the following to be displayed: "This message contains blocked content that has previously been flagged as abusive or spammy. Let us know if you think this is an error." A simple mistake on Facebook's end? Actually, no.
When TechCrunch reached out to Facebook for comment, the site's PR reps said the block was entirely intentional. "At the time we blocked j.mp, more than 70% of j.mp links pointed to spam or other security issues," a Facebook rep said. They went on to say they were working with Bit.ly to resolve the issue.
It is unclear if this was a temporary jump in spam traffic, or if j.mp links have just become spammy by nature. There are also some rumors that Facebook is planning to launch a URL shortener of its own, so tweaking the current market leaders could be all in good fun in the Zuckerberg camp.
Awake to the fact that malware authors are adept at gaining high search rankings for their malware-fraught sites, Google has been providing malware notifications in its search results for three years now. But what about legitimate sites compromised by a third party for various nefarious ends? Now there is a notification for that as well.
“Clicking the 'This site may be compromised' link brings you to an article in our Help Center which explains more about the notice. Meanwhile, clicking the result itself brings you to the target website, as expected,” Gideon Wald, an associate product manager at Google, wrote in a blog post.
“Of course, we also understand that webmasters may be concerned that these notices are impacting their traffic from search. Rest assured, once the problem has been fixed, the warning label will be automatically removed from our search results, usually in a matter of days. You can also request a review of your site to accelerate removal of the notice.”
Russia may be popular for its Vodka and caviar, but its stock among the tech savvy has been going down rapidly ever since it was revealed that they are also the No. 1 source of spam in the world. Interestingly enough however this might be set to change with the apprehension of 23-year-old Oleg Nikolaenko who has been accused of spearheading operations responsible for sending over 10 billion spam emails per day.
Nikolaenko’s botnet has been referred to in legal documents as Mega-D, a network of computers that is estimated to be composed of over half a million machines. His advertising efforts have primarily been focused on Rolex counterfeits and herbal remedies, but the true scope of his operations likely won’t be fully understood until the authorities have time to review all the evidence.
According to Valleywag Nikolaenko is facing a fine of up to $250,000 and three years in prison, though a careful examination of the facts would suggest that this might be little more than a slap on the wrist. According to one of Nikolaenko’s clients he alone spent more than 2 million on spam advertising, an admission that would suggest to us that Oleg might just have a cozy little nest egg to retire on when he emerges from prison.