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Spammers use Windows Vista as bait

07 февраля 2007
Image spam is the new big thing. Drugs promising weight loss and improved sexual performance are the usual products promoted, but spammers have new bait: reduced-price Microsoft Vista.

In 2006 there was a relentless increase in spam activity, largely driven by new techniques and an increase in the sophistication of botnets. Image spam, which uses images to communicate their marketing to messages to internet users, has grown in popularity amongst spammers and is becoming a huge challenge.

Hundreds of millions of spam emails are being sent every day and research has suggested that spam covers 90% of emails worldwide. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, says: “Approximately 30% of all spam now uses images to try and sneak past anti-spam filters”. Without strong defences in place, computer users will be continuously bombarded with spam, the majority of which is being sent from botnets on zombie computers.

The latest campaign by spammers offers Windows Vista at a reduced price. The spam email claims that a saving of $319 can be made by downloading Window’s new operating system. It is so far unknown whether acting upon the spam will provide the computer user with a pirated edition of the software, or simply steal their credit card details.

“This widespread spam campaign carries all the hallmarks of a typical image spam”, says Cluley, “It’s worrying just how poorly educated people are about web and email threats. The average man in the street just doesn’t have a clue”. Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure is also concerned about the harm being caused by image spam. “It’s a serious and growing problem, not least because of its ability to circumvent traditional email spam filters to clog servers and inboxes”. Within the last six months, image spam has become responsible for 35% of all junk mail and is costing businesses both time and money.

According to a survey by CDMS, 31% of UK companies are failing to comply with regulations governing the sending of unsolicited emails. The regulations which came into force in 2004, say companies should only send unsolicited sales messages to non-customers who have actively agreed to receive them. The Information Commissioner’s office (ICO) however, claims that there is no evidence that such a large number of UK companies are flouting the law.

So, how is the problem of image spam going to be solved? In response to the increased levels of spam, most spam filter systems are becoming more sophisticated in order to defend against these new technologies. But Hypponen believes that the root of the problem lies with the public. “We will never rid ourselves of spam until people stop buying the products advertised in these mails. Spam obviously works, otherwise it would not be so prevalent”.

Eleanor Dallaway, Infosecurity Today

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