Viruses, spam and malicious Internet scams transmitted by e-mail all grew sharply in 2002, posing a threat to the smooth running of worldwide e-mail systems, according to security vendor MessageLabs.
The problem of spam, or unsolicited e-mail, has become so bad that the number of spam e-mails received will exceed the number of legitimate e-mails next year, MessageLabs said in a statement.
In its review of e-mail threats in 2002, MessageLabs reported that:
- Spam now accounts for 30 per cent of all e-mail and is set to rise above 50 per cent in July next year.
- One virus was sent for each 212 e-mails in 2002, compared with one virus per 380 e-mails in 2001. This upward trend is expected to continue.
- Technical sophistication of viruses continues to increase, exposing weaknesses in traditional antivirus software.
- Blended threats, where spam e-mails are combined with viruses, showed sharp growth in 2002.
- Trojans, or attacks targeted at companies and individuals, rose sharply in 2002.
- Malicious scams, such as the Nigerian e-mail advance fee scam, are continuing to proliferate and prosper. The Nigerian advance fee, or 419, scam is expected to gross US$2 billion in 2003, making it that country's second-largest industry.