You probably call it Halloween, for myself and other pagans it is Samhain, but for the cyber-gangs it is phishing time. Seasonally-themed spam is on the up at this time of the year, Halloween related messages accounting for 0.5% of the daily spam traffic by volume in mid-October according to the latest Symantec MessageLabs Intelligence Report.

Currently, with the 'Witch's New Year' Sabbath itself coming this weekend, there are some 500 million emails circulating worldwide and the majority of the Halloween spam is originating from the Rustock and Donbot botnets. Most of this would appear to be pointing towards pharmaceutical sites and rogue/counterfeit software sites.

"As is typical with spammers this time of year, we are seeing them try to capitalize on the holiday season" said MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Paul Wood. "Although they may be a bit overzealous, spamming is a numbers game and the spammers have certainly succeeded with volume thus far. Perhaps their early-bird approach is an attempt to compete with the other botnets and get in early to maximize their chances of success."

This month has also seen a batch of intercepted event-related advance-fee fraud spams, mostly relating to the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa which try and get the target to pay an up front fee in order to supposedly receive their prize draw winnings.

The October phishing activity has been 1 in every 293.7 emails, an increase of 0.11% since September but a drop of 10.5% if looked at as a proportion of all email-borne threats.

When it comes to viruses, October has seen the global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic from new and previously unknown bad sources increase by just 0.18% from September to 1 in every 230.8 emails. However, only 19.2% of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, which is a huge drop of some 20.6% from the previous month.

Geographically speaking, Denmark was the most spammed country with levels of 96.2 percent of all email, with the US on 94% and the UK on 93.3% while China tops the virus activity charts though, with 1 in every 80.7 emails being infected.

About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...