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Microsoft image showing a decline in spam in the second half of 2010

Microsoft this morning released its latest Security Intelligence Report, summarizing the data gleaned by the company about online attacks, viruses and other random unpleasantness across the Internet, targeting products from Microsoft and others.

The report, covering the second half of 2010, shows some positive trends for the industry, including a continued decline in vulnerability disclosures, which Microsoft says was probably due to  “better development practices and quality control throughout the industry, which result in more secure software and fewer vulnerabilities.”

But the really dramatic improvement is in the area of spam, as measured by the volume of unwanted email messages blocked by the company’s Forefront Online Protection for Exchange. After peaking at more than 90 billion spam messages blocked per month around the middle of the year, the number fell below 60 billion  in December of 2010.

Microsoft attributed the decline to the takedown of two major spam-dispensing botnets, Win32/Cutwail and Rustock, but Jeff Williams of the Microsoft Malware Protection Center was careful not to declare victory, cautioning on a conference call this morning that this will be an ongoing battle between spammers and the authorities and companies trying to put them out of business.

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