Short URL spam targets health concerns

According to Symantec’s MessageLabs Intelligence report, shortened-URL spam continues to be a popular technique for spammers seeking to sell drugs online.

Spammers are taking advantage of the heightened interest in health-related issues such as swine flu and Obama’s healthcare reform, to distribute large shortened-URL spam runs using the powerful Donbot botnet.

In August, the ongoing abuse of shortened-URLs as a delivery mechanism resulted in a number of legitimate URL-shortening services being forced to close their businesses due to their inability to handle the malicious use of their tools.

Shortened-URL spam has had a big impact on users and businesses this month, but it’s not the only technique we’re seeing from the bad guys.

Other online threats that should also be on your radar:

Cutwail’s nine lives
On August 1st, Latvian ISP Real Host was shutdown, causing Cutwail’s activity levels to drop by 90 percent. However, it only took Cutwail a matter of days to recover, demonstrating just how powerful and intelligent this botnet has become.

DDoS attacks on social networks
A number of social networking websites were recently reported to be victims of DDoS attacks. MessageLabs found that the attacks may be linked with a spam run against an anti-Russian blogger. MessageLabs Intelligence suggests that this small but strategic spam run contributed to the DDoS attacks on these social networking sites. A botnet was also used to conduct the DDoS attack in parallel, with compromised computers under the botnet’s control commanded to open the page of the targeted social networking website.

Old malware comes back to haunt us
MessageLabs Intelligence analysis highlights how cybercriminals are three times as likely to favor repurposing malware across numerous domains rather than developing new tactics. In August, analysis of malware being blocked each day highlights that only 11.9 percent was newly developed malware.

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