Spam hit 72 percent of overall email traffic monitored by Symantec in November, the highest percentage for any month this year, according to the security vendor's monthly State of Spam Report.

Spam volumes more typically hover in the 50 percent to 60 percent range. Doug Bowers, a senior director at Symantec, chalked up the November surge to a decisive effort by spammers to increase their capacity to send more email using tactics such as the Storm worm. "The fact that spam volume continued to increase and stayed up seems to signal they were having some success," said Bowers.

Symantec, which gathers data by monitoring 450 million inboxes worldwide, also says November saw the first traces of Olympics-related spam due to the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In addition, there was a huge e-mail harvesting campaign in which Symantec blocked more than 35 million blank-message emails.

In niche categories observed in November, spammers were disguising a virus-hosting site in spam emails by exploiting international public interest in the case of the missing Madeleine McCann. Another odd sighting, Symantec notes, was spam that uses a "funny .GIF that shows a snowball hurtling at you through your computer." Spammers are also said to be taking advantage of the season to market free gift cards for well-known companies.