Social networking sites were slammed by spam in 2009

New Zealand is only responsible for 0.06% of the world’s spam, statistics from Cisco’s annual security report for 2009 has revealed.

In contrast, Australia produces 0.74% of worldwide spam, which is relatively large for a country with a small population. Brazil produced 12.13% of spam in 2009, a huge increase of 7.08% on its 2008 result of 5.05%.

The US produced 10.41%, down 5.05% on its 2008 result of 15.92%. The spam that originates in these countries in then dispersed across the world.

In Cisco’s report, the company highlighted the impact of social media on network security and how social networking is creating opportunities for cyber criminals.

Last year, Facebook tripled its active user base to around 350 million. Cisco expects social media adoption to continue such phenomenal growth in 2010, as sites such as Twitter grow in popularity.

“Social networks has quickly become a playground for cyber criminals because members of these sites put an inordinate amount of trust in the other members of their communities and often fail to tale precautions to prevent the spread of malware and computer viruses.

“The annual security report also provides more information on the potentially devastating combination of minor vulnerabilities, poor user behaviour, and outdated security software that can dramatically increase risks to network security,” the company said in a statement.

Cisco fellow Patrick Peterson said; “The blending of social media for business and pleasure increases the potential for network security troubles, and people, not technology, can often be the source.

“Without proper cognisance of security threats, our natural inclination to trust our ‘friends’ can result in exposing ourselves, home computers and corporate networks to malware. The value of social media is becoming acknowledge increasingly by businesses, but these same organisations need to provide the proper training and education to ensure that employees avoid compromising themselves and their businesses.”

The report revealed the top three threats to online users as Zeus, a Trojan that delivers malware by targeted phishing and drive-by downloads. This Trojan was used to steal personal information to gain access to online banking accounts. The Zeus botnet infected around four million computers worldwide.

The Conflicker worm that was supposed to grind computers to a halt on April 1 last year was composed of members of the security community and industry. But Cisco said the most notable “criminal innovation” was a worm called Koobface.

The worm regenerated itself, first appearing on Facebook in 2008 and then on Twitter in 2009. Koobface lures users through a YouTube link that then launches the worm. More than three million computers worldwide were infected by variants of this worm.