SOURCE: MessageLabs, Inc.

November 19, 2007 06:00 ET

MessageLabs Intelligence: 2008 Security Predictions

The Year the Shadow Economy Adopts Mainstream Approaches but the Threat Landscape Keeps Innovating

LONDON and NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - November 19, 2007) - MessageLabs, the leading provider of messaging and web security services to businesses worldwide, today announced its security predictions for 2008, forecasting a year of increased intelligence, outreach and attacks.

"2007 was the year of prolific cyber-crime with certain gangs becoming famous within the security industry. Notoriety within a hot market always encourages an influx of new players wanting their slice of success and thus, the threat market is set to be even hotter in 2008," said Mark Sunner, Chief Security Analyst, MessageLabs. "In addition to the number of players within the market, significant increases will also be seen in the techniques the bad guys will use. Predictability is the Achilles heel of cyber-crime, and the bad guys will avoid repeat attacks at all costs."

Having analyzed the global threat landscape for almost a decade, MessageLabs Team Skeptic™ includes many world-renowned malware experts who have a global view of threats across multiple communication protocols drawn from the billions of web pages, email and IM messages Skeptic filters each day. Here are their security predictions for 2008:

Stormy Weather Ahead

2007 saw the introduction of some major new players into the threat arena, gangs which may be perceived as inspirational to their more amateur peers. Responsible for one of the largest botnets in the world, StormWorm, is an experienced and professional team which MessageLabs predicts will have further impact in 2008, through its own activities and the antics of new players attracted to the buoyant market.

The Shadow Economy Doors Widen

According to industry experts, the shadow internet economy is currently worth over $105 billion. 2008 is predicted to be another year of significant growth as e-crime tools become accessible and the market becomes more mature and open, operating to conventional supply and demand rules. Through the continuous improvement in the quality of products on sale in the shadow economy, previous barriers to entry such as technical skills will be lowered and more people will try and make a living out of this economy.

Next File Format Please

The scammers and spammers toolbox will continue to expand as we enter 2008 as more file attachments and approaches are adopted. Towards the end of 2007 we saw MP3 files used for the first time for stock spam purposes. MessageLabs experts predict that video file formats will be the next on the cyber-criminals list of scams, and spammers will follow the example of malware writers with PowerPoint attachments.

Up Close and Personal

2007 was undoubtedly the year of targeted attacks with levels rising from 10 per day in May to levels in excess of 1,100 within 16 hours in September. With the rewards obviously outweighing the research required to develop such targeted and personal attacks, MessageLabs experts anticipate more attempts with increased sophistication during early 2008.


With spam levels now averaging 75 percent of all email traffic, Instant Messaging (IM) was expected to be on the spammers list of targets for 2007. In reality this did not live up to expectations so the predicted increase in IM attention is now poised to be an actuality in 2008. The probability is that IM spam will run like telemarketing i.e. a spam message is sent out to 100 targets and the spammer will wait momentarily for any responses. If successful, that individual scam will continue, if not, the next batch of IM spam will be sent. IM spam will add to the ever-increasing spam levels and methods utilised.

Spammers Adopt Virus Tactics

As spammers learn from the virus writers' targeted approach, MessageLabs predicts that spam will increase in intelligence during 2008. Spam-run sizes will remain vast but the content will be more targeted and stickier with the end goal of increasing the currently very low conversion rate.

About MessageLabs Intelligence

MessageLabs Intelligence is a respected source of data and analysis for messaging security issues, trends and statistics. MessageLabs provides a range of information on global security threats based on live data feeds from our control towers around the world scanning billions of messages each week.

About MessageLabs

MessageLabs is a leading provider of integrated messaging and web security services, with over 16,000 clients ranging from small business to the Fortune 500 located in more than 86 countries. MessageLabs provides a range of managed security services to protect, control, encrypt and archive communications across Email, Web and Instant Messaging.

These services are delivered by MessageLabs globally distributed infrastructure and supported 24/7 by security experts. This provides a convenient and cost-effective solution for managing and reducing risk and providing certainty in the exchange of business information. For more information, please visit

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