IBM Report: India is Single Largest Contributor to Spam

India has been responsible for sending out 16 percent of all spam according to the results of IBM's "X-Force 2012 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report".

The increase in spam was attributed in the report to the 25 percent growth in Indian Internet users over the past 12 months. This was the first time that a country accounted for about 16 percent of all spams; the previous record holder was the United States, which accounted for 15 percent in 2007.

The report also found a sharp increase in browser-related exploits, renewed concerns around social media password security, and continued challenges in mobile devices and corporate 'bring your own device' (BYOD) programs.

"Today's security risks are fundamentally different; businesses have to be proactive about security, anticipating the kinds of risks that expanding the business or opening up operations to more clients and partners will create. As clients strive to expand globally, achieve compliance and meet other information technology goals without adding resources, the IBM infrastructure, experience and expertise, coupled with the ability to manage multiple products from various security vendors, can help maximize existing security investments," said Vaidyanathan Iyer, country manager for Security, Software Group, IBM ISA.

While mentioning the emerging trends in mobile security, the report stated that while there are instances of exotic mobile malware, most smartphone users are still most at risk of premium SMS (short message service, or texting) scams. These scams work by sending SMS messages to premium phone numbers in a variety of different countries automatically from installed applications. There are multiple scam infection approaches for this:

- An application that looks legitimate in an app store but only has malicious intent

- An application that is a clone of a real application with a different name and some malicious code

- A real application that has been wrapped by malicious code and typically presented in an alternative app store

It was noted that a big game-changing transformation is the pervasiveness of BYOD programs. Many companies are still in their infancy of adapting policies for allowing employees to connect their personal laptops or smartphones to the company network. To make BYOD work within a company, a thorough and clear policy should be in place before the first employee-owned device is added to the company's infrastructure.

While the connection between websites, cloud-based services, and Webmail provides for a seamless experience from device to device, users should be cautious about how these accounts are connected, the security of their password, and what private data has been provided for password recovery or account resetting. The report recommends the use of a lengthy password comprised of multiple words instead of an awkward combination of characters, numbers and symbols.

On the server side, the report recommends encrypting passwords to the database using a hash function that is suitable for password storage. The hash function should be difficult to calculate, which helps limit the effectiveness of attacks.

However, on the bright side, the report stated that there continues to be progress in certain areas of Internet security. IBM X-Force data reports a continuing decline in exploit releases, improvements from the top ten vendors on patching vulnerabilities and a significant decrease in the area of portable document format (PDF) vulnerabilities. IBM believes that this area of improvement is directly related to the new technology of sandboxing provided by the Adobe Reader X release.

Data for the bi-annual X-Force report comes from IBM's security operations centers which monitor more than 15 billion security events a day on behalf of approximately 4,000 clients in more than 130 countries.