Last month’s post examining the top email-based malware attacks received so much attention and provocative feedback that I thought it was worth revisiting. I assembled it because victims of cyberheists rarely discover or disclose how they got infected with the Trojan that helped thieves siphon their money, and I wanted to test conventional wisdom about the source of these attacks.
While the data from the past month again shows why that wisdom remains conventional, I believe the subject is worth periodically revisiting because it serves as a reminder that these attacks can be stealthier than they appear at first glance.
The threat data draws from daily reports compiled by the computer forensics and security management students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The UAB reports track the top email-based threats from each day, and include information about the spoofed brand or lure, the method of delivering the malware, and links to Virustotal.com, which show the number of antivirus products that detected the malware as hostile (virustotal.com scans any submitted file or link using about 40 different antivirus and security tools, and then provides a report showing each tool’s opinion).
As the chart I compiled above indicates, attackers are switching the lure or spoofed brand quite often, but popular choices include such household names as American Airlines, Ameritrade, Craigslist, Facebook, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Kraft, UPS and Xerox. In most of the emails, the senders spoofed the brand name in the “from:” field, and used embedded images stolen from the brands being spoofed.
The one detail most readers will probably focus on most this report is the atrociously low detection rate for these spammed malware samples. On average, antivirus software detected these threats about 22 percent of the time on the first day they were sent and scanned at virustotal.com. If we take the median score, the detection rate falls to just 17 percent. That’s actually down from last month’s average and median detection rates, 24.47 percent and 19 percent, respectively.