Malware Writers Change Course

e-mail malware software

In the past year, the amount of malware spread through e-mail attachments has significantly declined, say the researchers. In January of 2006, for example, a staggering one in every 50 e-mails was infected, compared to about one in every 1,000 e-mails sent in August of 2007.

"Users have become smarter and no longer click on attachments from unknown people, so malware writers have to find new ways to get in front of us and now the way they do it is through links to Web sites," says Ron O'Brien, senior security analyst, with Sophos, in Burlington, Mass.

Among the most common enticements malware writers are using now is links purporting to direct users to naked photos of celebrities, e-greeting cards from family members or friends, or YouTube videos featuring the e-mail recipient. Once users clicks on the links they are directed to a Web site hosting malicious content, which could then infect their PCs.

In August alone, the Sophos researchers detected about 5,000 new infected Web pages each day.

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"It's really more pervasive than it has been in the past, and we and our partners have the obligation now of training and educating people that they can't click on these kind of links," O'Brien says.