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Small Spam Runs as Dangerous as Large Ones, Says Websense

Web security firm, Websense, recently examined a small spam campaign that included variants of the Zeus Trojan that had little to no coverage by a majority of anti-virus vendors. Their point was to demonstrate that sometimes even small campaigns could cause a large amount of problems for an organization.

Web security firm, Websense, recently examined a small spam campaign that included variants of the Zeus Trojan that had little to no coverage by a majority of anti-virus vendors. Their point was to demonstrate that sometimes even small campaigns could cause a large amount of problems for an organization.

Earlier this month, Websense’s ThreatSeeker Network detected a small-volume spam campaign targeting businesses, with legitimate looking email messages. The content of the messages varied, from purchase orders and quotes, to supply chain details. However, the common threat between the campaigns were the low number of messages, and the lack of AV coverage for any of the malicious attachments – each one a variant of the Zeus Trojan.

In their explanation, Websense used their Advance Classification Engine (ACE) as an example.

“In many cases, AV signatures are behind the latest threats. But although ACE uses AV as one of its analytics, we found this example where AV was not detecting the threat. Other techniques such as using network behavior (volume vs. time) and reputation are very effective against big campaigns, but would not work in this case, since the volume was low. The content of these email messages looks benign most of the time, so traditional antispam rules would not work well either,” the post explains.

From that point, it goes on to mention how Websense customers were protected while other users (who happen to use security solutions offered by the competition) were up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Websense has a point, but at the same time, the situation creates a perfect example as to why security awareness training is valuable. In each of the campaigns where security solutions may have missed a beat – awareness training likely would have helped.

For example, messages from a person who us unknown to the user or company, which are written in poor grammatical fashion or reference locations that are not related to the organizations primary focus (China for example, or Korea), should be suspect. Again, attachments should always be suspect, and for business tractions, if the sender is unknown – then don’t trust the attachment.

There’s more, obviously, because awareness programs are rarely easy or simple. However, the fact that small spam runs can be just as risky as the large ones means that including the human link on the security chain in an organization’s overall risk plan is time and money well spent.

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