E-mail spam morphs in first half of 2008

E-mail spam went through an important change in terms of content and distribution medium during the first half of 2008, according to BitDefender, an award-winning provider of antivirus software and data security solutions. BitDefender today released the results of its spam and phishing survey from January through June 2008; last year’s highly advertised stock spam dropped from 25% to just 2%, while the formerly intrusive image spam continued its descending trend.

In terms of media and techniques, the most notable trend the analysts uncovered concerns the revival of the text-based spam which reached 70% this year, compared to 20% for the same period of 2007. Image spam continued its decline and dropped to 3%, compared to 60% last year.

Text-based spam still appeals to automated scripts for word scrambling, rephrasing or (synonymic) substitution, while image spam usually deploys obfuscated content. Other types of spam, such as e-mails bearing PDF attachments, audio and video files, etc., decreased in popularity, accounting for 10-15% of e-threats.

In the first half of 2008, e-mail spam’s content lost its emphasis on stock options, while spam media changes — dominated in the last half of 2007 by various formats of image and audio stock spam — reverted back to non-obfuscated and identical text-based message templates.

Phishing trends for the first half of 2008 indicate a variation and growth of the spoofed banks and targeted clients. Primarily, forged elements belong to the US financial organizations, while the possible victims are now native English speakers who reside in the US, UK or Canada, although last week BitDefender’s researchers received several notifications about ongoing attacks from Spain, Italy and France. Most arguments invoked in the illegitimate e-mails are still negative, such as account blocking or expiration and account details update for security reasons.

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