Why Malware Happens – Spam and Botnets



Welcome to our “Why Malware Happens” video series, where we examine the motives behind malware and hacking attacks.

Here are some statistics for you to consider:

  • 45% of all global email traffic is devoted to SPAM.
  • The most common forms of Spam are advertising-oriented messages, making up over 36% of all junk emails. This is closely followed by adult-oriented messages, and then financial emails come in third place.
  • Although fraud emails make up less than 3% of all spam, the vast majority of these messages are related to phishing and identity theft.
  • When sent to business accounts, spam can be such a productivity drain that it’s estimated to cost the average employer nearly $2000 per year in productivity costs.

Companies and government organizations have spent tremendous amounts of money in order to curb spam. Not only is it logistically difficult to send out high volumes of spam emails, but sending spam can also result in fines or other legal consequences for the spammers and their technology partners.

If spam so difficult and ineffective, then how do spammers still manage to survive?

One of the most common ways, would be through the use of things called botnets. In a botnet, a virus would infect a large quantity of computers. And all of these computers would be placed under the control of a single hacker. The hacker would then offer these infected systems for rent on the black market.

If you’re a spammer, you could have your messages sent through a million infected computers. This makes spam prevention very difficult. It’s fairly easy to block a single machine, from a suspicious location. But it’s much more difficult to block a million rogue computers inside of legitimate trusted networks.

The first known illegal botnet was discovered by Earthlink in 2001. This single botnet was responsible for over 25% of all spam, and was managed by a single person.

BredoLab was one of the largest botnets ever discovered. It consisted of over 30,000,000 infected computers, and was capable of sending out over 3.6 Billion emails per day. In 2010, the creator was arrested, and all of the control systems were seized. Despite this, the botnet is still believed to be partially intact today.

In addition to spam, botnets are also used for other distributed cybercrimes, including adware, spyware, DDoS attacks, phishing, click fraud, brute force attacks, hacking and ransomware.

We’ll be discussing these in other videos.

As you can see, malware creators have significant motives for infecting your computer. But what can you do to protect yourself?

From a technology perspective, all starts with prevention.

  • Make sure that you have a secure, automated and comprehensive backup process to protect your data.
  • Then, make sure that you have a strong and up-to-date antivirus system installed on your computer.
  • Finally, educate yourself and practice good digital hygiene.

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