Efforts to combat botnets throughout the year have largely come to nought with the total number of active bots in 2010 — approximately five million worldwide — expected to be roughly equal to that of 2009, according to Symantec.
Detailing the state of botnets worldwide, the security company, via subsidiary MessageLabs, said that despite the same number of botnets, the average number of spam emails sent from each bot fell from approximately 85 emails per bot per minute in 2009 to approximately 77 spam emails per bot per minute at the end of 2010.
This led to a decrease in the total amount of global spam in circulation toward the end of 2010.
“There were some exceptions, however, particularly with Rustock, which continued to dominate and was responsible for 47.5 per cent of all spam at the end of the year,” the company wrote in its MessageLabs Intelligence: 2010 Annual Security Report.
“In 2010 the average global spam rate for the year was 89.1 per cent, an increase of 1.4 per cent compared with 2009. The proportion of spam sent from botnets was much higher for 2010, accounting for approximately 88.2 per cent of all spam.”
The report also noted that 2010 had seen a number of distribute denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks served up by botnets.
“DDoS attacks have evolved to be more sophisticated, more prevalent and more dangerous than ever,” the report reads. “There are concerns that in the future botnets will become increasingly self-sufficient, which could make them even more efficient at propagating DDoS attacks.
“…savvy botnet owners now have built-in business continuity plans to ensure their networks are self-sufficient, robust and less prone to disruption.”
The findings follow news that the main website of MasterCard being knocked offline in a large DDoS attack, apparently launched in retaliation for the credit card company's decision this week to cut off services to WikiLeaks.
In late November, the Internet Industry Association of Australia’s (IIAA) launched its iCode aimed at getting internet service providers (ISPs)and consumers together to help mitigate the risks of zombie PCs and botnets.
Also during November, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released its report into botnets, which found ISPs were important control points in the ongoing effort to control spam and botnets.
According to the MessageLabs report, the average rate for malware contained in email traffic for 2010 was one in 284.2 emails, or 0.352 per cent. In 2009 the figure was one in 286.4, or 0.349 per cent.
Some 23.7 per cent of malware blocked in 2010 was contained in a malicious link within the body of the message rather than an attachment. During 2009, the figure was 15.1 per cent.