At a time when war and violence make the headlines — particularly from Syria — spammers in 2016 extensively exploited the subject through mailings, a new report revealed on Wednesday.

Projecting themselves as refugees and victims of terrorism, several so-called "Nigerian" emails were sent to users on behalf of both state organisation employees and individuals. 

According to Russia-based software security company Kaspersky Lab's report on "Spam and Phishing in 2016", the imposters' intentions were to get the recipient's attention with promises of large sums of money and make them join a conversation.

"2016 saw a variety of changes in spam flows, with an increase in the number of malicious mass mailings containing ransomware being the most significant. Such an extensive use of ransomware may be due to the availability of this sort of malware on the black market," said Darya Gudkova, Spam analyst expert at Kaspersky Lab.

The volume of spam emails in 2016 increased to 58.31 per cent of overall email traffic, a rise of 3.03 per cent on 2015, with India being the third largest source of spam emails at 10.15 per cent in 2016. 

About 20 per cent of all spam emails in the fourth quarter of 2016 distributed ransomware Trojans.

The US remained the biggest source of spam at 12 per cent followed by Vietnam at 10.32 per cent. 

The most hit spam-targeted country was Germany that received 14.13 per cent malicious mailshots.

Kaspersky Lab identified "Trojan.Win32.Bayrob" as the most popular malware family distributed through emails to send out spam and steal personal data.

The year 2016 remained abuzz with mega sports activities and that presented spammers an opportunity to cash-out from the ignorant internet users.

During the high-profile events like the Olympic Games in Brazil and the European Football Championship, spammers sent out fake lottery win notifications related to these events. 

In 2017, the volume of malicious spam is unlikely to fall, the report warned.