Computer Crime Research Center


What Olympic Spam?

Date: August 14, 2008

While The Test Center heard alot about Olympic spam --messages with Olympic-related topics appearing in the subject line, the body, or the attachments -- very little of it ended up on Test Center's servers.

MessageLabs and Symantec both released reports recently on this topic.

Symantec reported an increase in spam campaigns targeting the U.S. presidential candidates and the Beijing Olympics in August's State of Spam report. Looking at spam traffic for July, the company said the spammers sent emails taking advantage of the interest surrounding the Olympics (Subjects included "Beijing postpones Olympics due to McCain-Dalai Lama meeting"). In these spam attacks, the recipient is asked to click on a link that downloads malware. MessageLabs reported an attack where malware was hidden within an Adobe Acrobat PDF file attachment. When the attachment was opened, embedded JavaScript downloaded an executable program on to the target.

So where were they? We didn't see much of this.

The Test Center checked the honey pot (running KF Sensor) and the spam filtering appliance (Sophos ES1000) to analyze the spam traffic. Despite Symantec's claims, our servers did not really see an increase in Olympic spam in July, or the first few weeks of August. According to our analysis, Olympic spam made up only .5 percent of total spam that hit our servers. The Test Center saw a significant amount of bilingual spam -- over 25 percent -- over the same six week period. While the most common language was Japanese, there were some mails in Hebrew and Spanish mixed in, as well.

Instead of the Olympics, SecureComputing reported an increase in celebrity-based spam, with Angelina Jolie leading the pack. We did see this reflected in our collection devices, at about 30 percent.

In addition to the celebrities, our servers were slammed last week with spam (messages posing as Top 10 lists).

Perhaps is old news, as the Test Center noticed an increase in spam purporting to be from this week.
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