President Obama, Swine Flu Make Good Spam Topics

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Over the past two months, spammers have latched on to news topics and trends such as President Obama's first 100 days in office and the swine flu pandemic to entice email users to open their unsoliticed messages, according to a new report by Symantec.

Image spam made another resurgence during April and early May, according to the latest spam report from Symantec, but as usual spammers also latched onto headline news topics to lure in their victims, including swine flu, the end of President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office and Mother's Day.

According to Dermot Harnett, principal analyst of anti-spam engineering at Symantec, spammers' tactics surrounding headline news and important events continue, but the resurgence of image spam was of particular interest in the "Symantec May 2009 State of Spam Report." Image spam hit its peak in 2006 and 2007, and the amount of it floating around the Internet has decreased significantly since. However, every so often, it spikes for a short period of time, he said.

Image spam can be filtered out by technology from anti-spam vendors like Symantec, but it does still have an effect on corporate IT infrastructures because of the larger-than-usual e-mail size (when compared to text-only spam). It also uses obfuscation techniques that can still be a danger.

"It's the cyclical nature of spam. The spammers are out there. They start up with a new spam tactic, play with that one for awhile and see how successful they are, and then, if they see the return on investment isn't large, they'll try a new attack," Spain said. Or they'll go back to using older techniques like image spam.

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