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Small Businesses Under Siege by Spammers

Spam
Spam has become a flood and financial attacks are increasing fast -- with small businesses in particular finding themselves in scammers' crosshairs, according to a new study conducted by Vasco Data Security International.

The company said the 700 small European businesses it studied recorded 120 million blocked spam e-mails in January. After installing a pre-scanning engine, the company blocked an additional 40 million spam e-mails in February -- while almost all of the 70 million unblocked e-mails were still spam that evaded the scanning engine.

"Even then, 93 percent of the 70 million e-mails were still spam," Kurt Berghs, product manager for aXsGUARD, told InternetNews.com.

That influx of spam could mean more than just a simple annoyance. According to Vasco (NASDAQ: VDSI), the amount of malware contained in e-mails has tripled compared to last year -- and a steadily increasing proportion of them are money-related. The total number of banking Trojans and phishing scams has increased eightfold, the company told InternetNews.com.

Asked whether hackers are looking for money, Berghs told InternetNews.com, "we cannot be sure of that, but if we look at the increase of phishing and banking Trojans ... it points to that conclusion."

The data, gathered from the company's aXsGUARD appliances installed in 700 small businesses in Belgium, included firms ranging in size from 5 to 250 employees. Customers covered by the study included local governments, accounting firms, logistics specialists, and insurance companies, Berghs said.

Vasco's product uses Trend Micro's scan engine and the open source Clam AV engine.

The conclusions agree with a MessageLabs Intelligence report, released earlier this week, which said that 89.7 percent of all malware involved phishing attacks.

Small and midsized businesses (SMBs) are reacting to the flood by implementing Internet use policies using Vasco's aXsGUARD, the company said.

That's also given Vasco insight into potentially dangerous behavior at small businesses. The company's study reported that the number of Web sites it's blocking has doubled in the past year, but that employees are still surfing the Net at a steadily increasing rate -- 32 percent more than a year ago. Blocked sites include e-commerce and social networking sites.

Social networking sites in particular pose a dilemma for small business IT administrators. Recent attacks on social networking sites have given them a bad name in security circles, and data retention experts have been recommending for some time that companies implement rules about the use of social media.

The fear is not only that business users might download malware -- they might also upload proprietary or sensitive information.

However, other reports have said that businesses that master social networking technology benefit from it.