South Africa Moves into Top-Five Geographies Globally for Malicious Emails

South Africa Moves into Top-Five Geographies Globally for Malicious Emails


Symantec Corp. today announced the results of the November 2011 Intelligence Report which saw South Africa move into the top five geographies globally for virus rate which this month jumped to 1 in 222,5 emails blocked as malicious. The survey also saw South Africa maintain top position as the most targeted geography for phishing with 1 in 96,2 emails identified as phishing.

This month’s analysis also reveals that the global number of daily targeted attacks has increased four-fold compared to January this year. On average 94 targeted attacks were blocked each day during the month of November.

“The aim of these targeted attacks is to establish persistent access to the targeted organisation’s network, in many cases with the aim of providing remote access to confidential data. They have the potential to cause serious damage to an organisation and in the long term represent a significant threat against the economic prosperity of many countries,” said Mark Smissen, business development manager,

“Targeted attacks are designed to gather intelligence, steal confidential information or trade secrets, and disrupt operations or even destroy critical infrastructure.”

The public sector has been identified as the most frequently targeted industry during 2011, with approximately 20,5 targeted attacks blocked each day. The chemical and pharmaceutical industry was second highest ranked, with 18,6 blocked each day. In this latter case, many of these attacks surfaced later in the year. Similarly, this is also the case for the manufacturing sector, which was placed third most-targeted with approximately 13,6 attacks blocked each day.

“It is important to remember that without strong social engineering, or ‘head-hacking,’ even the most technically sophisticated attacks are unlikely to succeed. Many attacks include elements of social engineering and are based on information we make available ourselves through social networking and social media sites. Once the attackers are able to understand our interests or hobbies, with whom we socialise and who else may be in our networks; they are often able to construct more believable and convincing attacks against us,” Smissen said.

While targeted attacks are on the increase, the global spam rate has now reached its lowest level in three years. The effect of spam volumes three years ago was very dramatic and spam accounted for 68,0% of global emails. Recently the decline has been much slower, but spammers have also adapted to using more targeted approaches and exploiting social media as alternatives to email. Pharmaceutical spam is now at the lowest it has been since we started tracking it, accounting for 32,5 % of spam, compared with 64,2% at the end of 2010.

November 2011 highlights:

Spam: The global ratio of spam in email traffic fell by 3,7 percentage points since October to 70,5 percent (1 in 1,42 emails).

70,1 percent of email traffic in South Africa was spam.

Phishing: The global phishing rate increased by 0,04 percentage points, taking the average to one in 302,0 emails (0,33 percent) that comprised some form of phishing attack.

Globally, South Africa stays in the top position with one in 96,2 emails identified as phishing.

Email-borne Threats: The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic was one in 255.8 emails (0,39 percent), a decrease of 0,03 percentage points since October 2011. Further analysis also shows that 40,2 percent of email-borne malware contained links to malicious Web sites, an increase of 20,1 percentage points since October 2011.

November saw South Africa jump to the top five list with one in 222,5 emails blocked as malicious.

Geographical Trends:


  • In the US, 69,9 percent of email was spam and 69,5 percent in Canada.
  • The spam level in the UK was 69,5 percent.
  • In The Netherlands, spam accounted for 70,5 percent of email traffic, 70,1 percent in Germany, 70,4 percent in Denmark.
  • In Australia 68,6 percent of email was blocked as spam, 69,2 percent in Hong Kong and 68,0 percent in Singapore, compared with 66,6 percent in Japan.
  • Spam accounted for 70,1 percent of email traffic in South Africa and 74,3 percent in Brazil.


  • South Africa once again became the country most targeted for phishing attacks, with one in 96,2 emails identified as phishing.
  • The UK was the second most targeted country, with one in 167,0 emails identified as phishing attacks.
  • Phishing levels for the US were one in 461,8 and one in 242,4 for Canada.
  • In Germany phishing levels were one in 426,2, one in 781,5 in Denmark and one in 250,4 in The Netherlands.
  • In Australia, phishing activity accounted for one in 361,0 emails and one in 517,0 in Hong Kong; for Japan it was one in 2,058 and one in 609,7 for Singapore.
  • In Brazil one in 775,3 emails was blocked as phishing.

E-mail-borne threats

  • The UK remained at the top of the table with the highest ratio of malicious emails in November, with one in 149,4 emails identified as malicious.
  • Switzerland had the second highest rate, with one in 185,6 emails identified as malicious.
  • In South Africa returned to the top-5 list this month with one in 222,5 emails blocked as malicious.
  • Virus levels for email-borne malware in the US reached one in 360,1 and one in 219,9 in Canada. In Germany virus activity reached one in 275,0, one in 710,5 in Denmark and in The Netherlands one in 238,2.
  • In Australia, one in 326,2 emails was malicious and one in 325,8 in Hong Kong. For Japan the rate was one in 1,147, compared with one in 450,0 in Singapore.
  • In Brazil, one in 570,6 emails in contained malicious content.

The November Symantec Intelligence Report provides greater detail on all of the trends and figures noted above, as well as more detailed geographical and vertical trends.

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