Spammers Play on Economic Fears

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Spammers are using the current shaky economic conditions to their advantage, according to information released by Symantec Corp. in its February 2009 MessageLabs Intelligence Report (See also: Spam is More Malicious Than Ever).

Spam declined by 1.3 percent to 73.3 percent of all e-mail in February, but levels as high as 79.5 percent were experienced at the start of the month due to a spike in botnet activity and spammers leveraging the financial crisis and Valentine's Day for their latest spam antics, the report states.

"With the financial crisis front of mind for many organizations and consumers, spammers and phishers are using this topic to their advantage and targeting people when times are tough," said Paul Wood, MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Symantec.

For the first time in more than a year, February saw the reappearance of search engine re-directs which topically referenced the financial crisis. The 'recession spam' email messages contained text such as "Money is tight, times are hard," "Get 15 percent off these," and "Cheaper than you could imagine."

This resurgence of search engine spam comes with a new twist, according to Symantec. The spam comes disguised as email messages which include links to well-known search engines. The links search for the spammer's domain, as opposed to automatically re-directing to the spam site in the hope that the search engine has not yet indexed the target site. By hiding the search for their domain in a legitimate search engine query, spammers can send messages that go under the anti-spam radar, according to a Symantec spokesperson.

The phishing community also used the current financial climate to their advantage, according to the report, plying victims with fake correspondence from banks (See: 9 Dirty Tricks: Social Engineers' Favorite Pick-Up Lines).

"At a time when concerned consumers may not be surprised to hear from their banks, phishing attacks have risen to one in 190.4 emails, from one in 396.2 in January 2009," the report states.

This story, "Spammers Play on Economic Fears" was originally published by CSO.

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