Auto Industry a Spam Magnet: Study

As if Detroit doesn’t enough problems, a new study by Panda Security found that the automotive industry and its employees are targeted with more spam and malware-laden e-mails than any other sector.

The three-month study conducted by the cloud-based security software firm from July to September analyzed more than 503 million messages sent to 867 companies in 11 different industries located in 22 different countries.

The automotive industry was spammed at the highest rate, according to Panda Security researchers, with a ratio of 99.89. In other words, just 0.11 percent — or a little more than one in a 1,000 e-mails — was a legitimate e-mail and not a come-on for Viagra or porn sites.

Company officials said the purpose of the research project was to compare the prevalence of spam and malware across different business sectors to see if any conclusions could be drawn as to why some sectors were more attractive to spam scams than others.

Ranking next behind the automotive industry — which includes manufactures, dealers, parts suppliers and other automotive services — were the electronics sector and government institutions at ratios of 99.78 and 99.60, respectively.

Spammers, hackers and phishers have hit enterprise and consumer PCs and mobile devices with an avalanche of malware and cons designed to milk unsuspecting users of their personal information or simply turn their computers into spam-spewing zombies.

Earlier this month, the FBI and Egyptian law enforcement agencies arrested 100 alleged thieves and hackers responsible for perpetrating what the government described as the largest cyber fraud phishing case in U.S. history.

Not everyone is as prone to e-mail scams and malware, however: the tourism and education sectors ranked as the two least-impacted of the 11 industries surveyed by Panda, with spam ratios of 87.22 and 87.98, respectively. They were followed by the banking sector, with a spam ratio of 92.48.

“We were curious to see if spam and e-mail-borne malware affected all companies equally or whether there were factors that influenced the likelihood of them being targeted,” Luis Corrons, technical director at PandaLabs, said in a statement. “We were surprised to find significant differences — up to 12 percent — in the ratio of junk mail received between different business sectors.”

While there was a significant disparity in spam volume among the different sectors, the subject fields used by the spammers were extremely predictable. More than 68 percent of the spam identified in the study was related to pharmaceutical products followed by ads for replica products at 18 percent and messages with sexually explicit content checked in at 11 percent.

PandaLabs found that banker Trojans were responsible for almost 70 percent of all malware detections followed by adware/spyware and viruses and worms at 22 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

Panda Security used the study results as an entrée to announce the launch of a new Web site it designed to help businesses identify their security issues and customize on-demand security application options for their organization.

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