DarkMail levels rise 400 per cent

1 Aug 2005

Levels of email that are sent to people that don't exist have quadrupled according to security company Email Systems

Levels of email that are sent to people that don't exist have risen 400 per cent according to security company Email Systems.

Email Systems suggests that between 65 and 75 per cent of all email traffic is classified as such, with between 25 and 35 per cent of mail successfully making it to inboxes around the world.

This figure includes spam and viruses as well as legitimate mail. MessageLabs said in June that 67.3 per cent email sent to valid addresses was spam, which means only around one in 10 emails are legitimate and genuine.

Aside from clogging up bandwidth, the problem may seem relatively minor to the end user. But the practices associated with the 'DarkMail' phenomenom are far more sinister.

One reason behind the rise is the increase in Denial of Service attacks targetting perimeter systems such as email servers. Another is Directory harvest Attacks, where mail is sent to all possible addresses of a given domain, in order to assemble a list of valid email addresses.

This list may then be used to send spam or launch phishing attacks.

Email Systems says that one of its clients, with a workforce of fewer than ten, was subject to an assault of this nature involving more than 10 million emails in a day.

Neil Hammerton, CEO of Email Systems said: 'Our statistics show that over the last 12 months, spam attackers are becoming increasingly speculative in their approach to reaching an actual user, with the overall volume of unsolicited mails having increased significantly and, more worryingly, the amount that's mis-targeted having increased by a different order of magnitude altogether.

'Unfortunately this is resulting in a great deal more unnecessary email traffic, which has the potential to severely affect unprotected corporate networks,' he added.

Email Systems analyses millions of emails daily, with clients across the UK and Europe, including more than a million inboxes for the London Grid for Learning.