By Mark Sutton
Spam levels stayed level in May, and so did the spammers, who continue to push out scams that attempt to prey on concerns surrounding the worsening world economic climate
Spam levels stayed level in May, with 80% of all mail categorized as spam at the gateway. And as spam stayed consistent, so did the approach of spammers, who continue to push out scams that attempt to prey on concerns surrounding the worsening world economic climate.
Symantec's latest report on the state of spam also shows no change in the most popular types of spam - with product related messages - offering general goods or services - making up 27% of spam in May, internet messages offering online or computer related services accounting for 17% and financial spam making up 16%.
The main culprits as sources of spam were the US which made was responsible for 28% of messages, Russia on 7%, Turkey 6% and China and Brazil both accounting for 4%.
Messages that deliberate target current concerns about recession were first spotted by Symantec in October, and show no sign of abating in June. Among the most popular new spam messages seen in the US are those that offer help to avoid foreclosure on mortgages, a direct attempt to cash in on US sub-prime lending crisis.
An even more direct attack on American concerns comes from another set of spam messages, which claim to offer ways to turn water into petrol.
Another approach that still plays on US financial woes, but offers a somewhat more plausible line are spam mails that appear to be from the US Internal Revenue Service, offering tax refunds as part of an economic stimulation program.
Natural disasters as well as financial ones also entered the spammer's play book in May, with scams playing on both the China earthquake and the Burma cyclone disasters. In the latter, it only took scammers four days to launch 419 messages, claiming to need the would-be victims help in distributing funds to cyclone victims.
In the China earthquake, the criminals attempted to hijack a legitimate website by creating a fraudulent URL under the root domain, which attempted to misdirect donations.
Another scam related to China, this one targeting Chinese victims, is the illegal invoice scam. This increasingly popular form of spam mail preys on the also increasingly popular pastime of tax evasion in the People's Republic. Emails claiming to offer fake invoices for any manner of services have been seen in growing numbers, although the Chinese government clampdowns against spam and against fraudulent invoices are trying their best to keep pace.
Google continues to be a target for spammers, with yet another new mode of attack uncovered in May. This time Google documents was abused, with the addition of a link that directed users to adult content.
Finally, the UEFA Champions League Final also provided yet another opportunity for spammers to catch the unwary. By posing as travel agents offering tickets for the match, scammers directed victims to a legitimate online payment site, and then got the victims to send their name, surname and the unique online payment voucher number to the spammer.