Computer Crime Research Center


Spam Is Growing And Getting More Sophisticated

Date: September 02, 2008

We're all familiar with e-mail spam offering prescription drugs, cut-rate software and herbal potions.

But spammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in delivering ploys intended to dupe people into divulging personal information. Some of their most recent innovations are traps for people who might be seeking help with drug or alcohol addiction.

A recent report from Symantec Corp., the Cupertino, Calif.-based developer of Norton AntiVirus software and other programs, says that unsolicited e-mails offering information about alcohol or drug rehabilitation services could very well be spam.

Appearing new this summer was e-mail with the subject lines "Get help today with Drug Rehab Info" or "Overcome Alcoholism Today" illustrated with photographs of people who seem depressed, the Symantec report said.

"It's one of their more sinister attacks," said Dermot Harnett, the report's editor. "If you open it, it will bring you to a sign-up page asking for your name, address and e-mail information. It's the first step in trying to get credit card information."

Besides the innovations, the overall volume of spam is up, too. In July 2007, about 66 percent of all e-mail messages were spam, the report said. This year, the figure rose to 78 percent.

You may think it's all coming from overseas, but according to Symantec, Americans are the biggest offenders. In July, the largest amount of spam — 27 percent — originated in the U.S., followed by Turkey and Russia, which tied at 7 percent, the report said.

The bulk of that e-mail contained phony offers or nasty computer viruses, Harnett said.

In an attempt to spread Trojan viruses, which can delete files or turn your computer into a spam-spewing zombie or snatch your e-mail addresses, spammers resort to both old and new ploys.
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