Filtering out spam may not seem such a big deal – after all, even a kid knows the difference between a Viagra advert and a normal message! In the security world things are much more complicated as we have to create something akin to artificial intelligence that is capable of doing the job automatically, on the fly.
That’s no easy task and entails all sorts of demands in terms of efficiency, reliability, compatibility and so on. And you no doubt know where things stand with AI – there are plenty who claim to have got it figured, but there’s nothing really to show for it (or if there is, they’re doing a good job of keeping it a secret).
Anti-spam security is no easier a task than anti-malware protection. And may even be more difficult (or maybe I just understand more about viruses…). The spam industry is a multi-billion dollar business and tens of thousands of skilled bloodsuckers are behind the huge variety of junk that is sent out. And these parasites show great ingenuity when it comes to linguistics and other stuff to make spam reach your inbox.
On the face of it, a spammer’s work looks fairly easy – write a spam message, test it against several of the most popular anti-spam filters and spawn via a botnet. But few customers realize that a spam message’s lifecycle is just half an hour to an hour long. 90% of a mass mailing will never reach its intended recipients – spam filters, activated with an update or triggered by statistics, will intercept it.
And it’s that black box – the thing that withstands the worst things that email traffic throws at it and keeps your inbox clean – that I want to discuss here.
First of all, a bit of background. Since 2002 our anti-spam solution (KAS) has got through four generations of engine and we’re now developing a fifth. A single blog post would hardly suffice to recount everything. Basically, KAS has acquired lots of bits and bobs over the last 10 years. It boasts over 10 methods of spam analysis alone. That’s why I’ll start with our new ‘Möbius‘ technology – just in time for its debut in the latest version of KAS for Exchange Server.
I give you the new model of the Red Snowmobile!
Italy (and most of Europe) is buried under snow and frozen solid. It meant that the brand new Ferrari F1 car was unveiled online this year – the guests just couldn’t get there, myself included. I’m enjoying the photos of a severe Italian winter from the airport in Cancún.
// you can come up with your own captions :)
Cars and the climate collide….
And here’s a video of the presentation:
A big hello from Munich!
More news, and this time I’d call it ‘The big Euro freeze’.
Europe is slowly icing over as a result of Siberian freezing weather blasting across the continent. Eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria) has been buried under meters of snow, the cold in Germany is bitter; in France it’s biting; England has also had its fair share and has cancelled a number of flights. I can only guess what is happening in Scandinavia and Poland. In Munich today it’s -9C, and it’s supposed to get down to -19C tonight, but the Bavarians are undaunted!
The photos are not mine, seeing as how I was at the Munich Security Conference all day. I’m a newbie here – I’ve never been involved at this level before (well, if you discount the London Conference on Cyberspace and Davos), but everything seemed to go well! I was on the roundtable, a few meetings and interviews. Here is my observations of the proceedings.
The Russian parliamentary elections late last year and the ensuing mass protests against their alleged falsification have brought about a sharp increase in the level of polarization of viewpoints being bandied about on Russian-language social networks and online media.
Simultaneously with all this, plenty of the Russian online media were visited by a ghost – the ghost of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service Attack) – in early December 2011. This led to brazen hacker attacks, with one after another Russian website going down, and several attacks occurring simultaneously. Some were organized using traditional criminal bot networks, but behind them, it sure seems to me, stood marginal political groups, since the victims of the attacks were the sites both of opposition groups (including the Communist Party) and also of the ruling United Russia party.
A second DDoS attack – in mid-December – was more sophisticated. To date we still don’t have any reliable information about its origin – that is, not technically (how they actually pulled off the DDoS), and not the people who ordered it. And I’m not sure we’ll ever get to the bottom of it.
But I won’t get bogged down here with theory.
So, what do you think happens 250 billion times a day? Well, OK, it’s a rhetorical question, especially if you paid attention to the title. But every day, in total, 250 billion spam e-mails are sent to inboxes all over the world. It sounds like a lot, but let’s be honest, does that number really shock you?
Next, try to define what you think of as spam. Most people assume it’s about Viagra, Nigerian letters and other pathetic, lame scams which jam up your inbox and slow down your daily business. But here’s the thing: spam is far more than just unsolicited ads. That Viagra offer is just the tip of the iceberg, while spam as a phenomenon is a crucial part of a huge cybercrime ecosystem. And the apparent “innocence” of spam is the illusion that I will be debunking here.
The technical foundations of the cybercrime ecosystem are botnets. These are huge clusters of computers infected with special Trojans (bots) that allow cyber crooks to remotely control these computers without their owners even knowing about it. That’s why experts also call botnets zombie networks – the computers are modified to obey cyber criminals’ commands as if they are zombies. Sometimes botnets can consist of millions of computers. For example, the notorious Kido (Conficker) botnet contained 7 million bots while TDSS had around 4.5 million bots.
How do they make money from botnets? The economics is quite simple here. Cyber crooks monetize the botnets in several ways including DDoS attacks, advertising services, phishing, data theft, etc. The picture looks something like this:
Davos (and if you’re really with it, the stress will be on the second syllable).
What do people who follow the news know about this place? Yes, only from the news! Davos…forum, economics, politics, anti-globalization, police. The place bursts to life like a geyser on Kamchatka – not very often, but when it does, you know about it.
Well, I was here too. For the first two days as a tourist, then things get a bit more serious…
She has made it!!!
A big hello from Austria!
This trip, not to mention this year, has got off to a very good start – we have been named AV-Comparatives’ Product of the Year!
Costin Raiu, one of our top generals in the war against malware, recently published an interesting post on the ten most significant events in the security field in 2011. I liked it; and the idea of a top-ten; so much so I decided to come up with my own. It mostly matches Costin’s report, but somehow this is a slightly different view. It’s not just regarding the past year – it’s a little broader: tendencies in the security market and about security in general. An “unofficial”, non-hoity-toity view of the important stuff – both that’s with us now, or that will be soon…
And so here’s my top-ten:
2. Militarization of the Internet and Cyber Weapons
3. Social Networks and Politics
4. The Duqu Cyber-Bomb
5. Widely Publicized Hacks and Industrial Espionage
6. Certification Authorities: the Beginning of the End
7. Cybercrime: as Romantic as Sewage
8. Android Malware
9. Mac Malware
10. Intel Taking Over McAfee – Intel-ligent Move or Epic McFail?