Malicious sites jump 200 percent over Feb

Nearly 3,000 Web sites were blocked daily in March, finds new MessageLabs report. Also, Asia-Pacific economies such as China and India, had most spam.

The threat from Web-based malware is growing at a rapid pace, with nearly 200 percent more malicious sites identified this month, according to a new report from MessageLabs.

Released Tuesday, the MessageLabs Intelligence Report revealed that 2, 797 new Web sites hosting malicious content including spyware, were blocked by the security vendor in March, a 200 percent jump over the previous month.

The rise, which was the highest since October 2008, was largely due to a spike in the number of images containing injected scripts. Such images were also found in e-mail messages during the month, said MessageLabs, now a Symantec company.

In addition, 61.6 percent of all Web-based malware intercepted in March were newly identified.

Also on the rise: the number of e-mail messages carrying links to malicious sites, said the security vendor. Some 20.3 percent, or one in five, contained links to such sites in March--a 16.5 percent increase over last month.

Asia-Pacific sees most spam
Globally, the amount of spam, viruses and phishing remained fairly constant since February. Unsolicited e-mail traffic grew 2.4 percent to 75.7 percent, which roughly worked out to one junk e-mail in every 1.32 messages.

According to the report, the top five economies with the highest amount of spam were all from the Asia-Pacific region--Australia, China, Hong Kong, India and Japan. At 88.7 percent, Hong Kong had the highest spam ratio, followed closely by China with 88.4 percent.

In an e-mail interview, Paul Wood, senior analyst of Symantec's MessageLabs Intelligence, noted that Australia and Hong Kong typically received more "international-type spam" than other countries.

China, India and Japan, in comparison, experienced more local-language spam due to high, or fast-growing, broadband penetration in these markets, he noted. In its full-year 2008 report published last December, MessageLabs predicted local-language spam would gather momentum in 2009.

During the quarter, spammers geared their spam campaigns at users worried about or affected by the economic downturn, the security vendor said. Other "seasonal" influences that triggered spam activities included St. Patrick's Day.