Security provider Webroot has today published its State of Internet Security: Protecting Business Email research report and estimates that every single business email account will receive some 42,000 spams during the course of 2008. Or 116 junk messages every single day if you prefer. That is an increase of some 60 percent since 2004 according to Webroot, despite the investment made in spam filtering technology. It would seem that spammers are taking the lead when it comes to developing methodologies to beat the filters therefore.

Mike Irwin, COO at Webroot, agrees "The size and volume of these spam attacks is largely due to the partial success of current filtering defences that now make spamming success a numbers game. It's clear why first-generation defences such as appliances and server-based software are struggling to keep up."

The report goes on to confirm that it is not just spam that is causing problems for business, but malware growth as well: up from 50,000 variants in 2004 to some 5.5 million in 2007. Of course, spam remains a hugely significant vector of attack for deploying these new malware variants. One in five businesses that responded to the Webroot survey say that they had experienced a threat to sensitive or confidential online information during the course of 2007.

"Huge amounts of spam and malware can easily overwhelm the networks of small and mid-size businesses and, in some cases, even small countries. In our survey, more than half of the respondents said that they suffered spyware and virus attacks via email," added Irwin. "Because existing defences are getting over-run, large numbers of companies are increasingly losing important data. Spam is growing in relation to the importance of email as a business communications tool."

Some of the key findings of the research include:

  • More than half surveyed experienced spyware and virus attacks via email and over 40 percent experienced a phishing attack
  • Over 60 percent of respondents had at least one email outage in 2007
  • One out of three survey respondents said that the hourly cost of an email outage is over $1,000
  • Individual email users open messages before realising they are spam, open messages in junk folders and even make purchases from emails marked as spam
  • One out of three organisations reported employee misuse of email resources

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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