Skip to comments.The Dark and Illicit Side of E-Mail Spam
Posted on 07/26/2004 1:17:35 PM PDT by Graybeard58
f you don't hit the delete button too fast, you may have noticed that your spam messages are changing. Big time.
What was once ludicrous come-ons for penis enlargements or lascivious offers for a peek at pornography is now a hotbed for financial scams and a black market for fake pharmaceuticals and software. The BBC News Online reports that spam is subtly shifting from nuisance to illegality, according to the British security firm Clearswift that has measured spam message topics for the past year. "Spam is now being used as a channel for a plethora of malicious and illegal activity," technical director Alyn Hockey told the BBC.
This is what makes up the spam pie: Finance: 39 percent Healthcare: 30.6 percent Other: 15 percent Direct Products: 9.6 percent Porn/Profanity: 4.8 percent Scams: 1 percent
Why are you now seeing more spam e-mail hawking a miracle diet rather than porn? Hockey says porn has been drastically reduced thanks to improved filtering technology. While porn has dropped to 4.8 percent of spam, compared with 21.8 percent a year ago, financial and pharmaceutical spam messages (read: Viagra) now make up nearly 70 percent of these annoying e-mails.
The dirty little secret of spam is that it works. Enough people respond to it to make it a viable business model. Hockey estimates that spammers have a one in 40,000 hit rate for the products they sell online. One reason for their success is that spammers pay attention to what's going on in the real world. "When Arnold Schwarzenegger was campaigning to be governor of California, there was lots of spam about offering Schwarzenegger memorabilia," Hockey told the BBC. Just watch. Toys and games will dominate before Christmas, and miracle diets will land in your e-mail box after the new year.
The scariest spam messages of all are those that try to steal information from you, including your Social Security number and credit card numbers. Click on these messages, and you'll go to what looks like a legitimate site, but the personal data you enter is stolen from you--something called phishing.
Hackers and spammers are joining forces, trying to infect home PCs with Trojan horse viruses that turn them into zombie PCs that can be remotely controlled without the owner's knowledge. Hockey predicts all this illegal activity will get worse before it gets better, but like pornography, it will eventually decline. "Pornography was offensive so there was a real push to try and stop it, and the same will become true of phishing once people become aware of it," Hockey told the BBC News.
Hard to believe that even one person in 40,000 would respond. Of course there are a lot of democrats in the world.
I'm surprised it's that high.
I'd have guessed 1 in 10,000 or lower.
I wonder what the hit rate is for the Nigerian scammers. They've taken in Harvard Professors and other "smart" people (can you believe that they get to cast votes too?).
The old line has never been more true: You can't cheat an honest man.
There are a lot of subject lines like:
Re: overdue payment
I've been trying to get you on the phone
Hey, we talked last week
ALL of these are illegal come ons as they use deceptive trade practices.
I also recently got one (purportedly from ebay):
Your eBay account has been suspended
(inside it says how some suspicious activity has been noticed on your account and so it "has" been frozen pending further communication...).
Just as there is a "postal inspector", someone in the Federal Trade Commission should be positioned over email fraud complaints. It is ILLEGAL to send porn ads to minors, period. In the postal realm, it is illegal to send porn ads to someone who has not approved such mail.
This is technically fraud over wires (phones/telegraph/etc.) and does fall under government oversight.
There has been no will to do anything about this issue for 20 years. The telemarketers lobby congress well.
I have been receiving a lot of spam with gibberish in the leading paragraphs. Just nonsense words strung together. This has been happening for several months. It may be spam for insurance or mortgage or even pharmacy products. What is this all about? Anyone have any info?
The gibberish is to get it past your spam filters.
The strung together jibberish is a way to foil spam filters. Fortunately we can customize our spam filters on our mail server to get rid of it...
Basically, messages with a lot of random words in the body content are designed to fool spam filters by containing terms that make them appear to be legitimate.
As filtering becomes more sophisticated, so do the spammers.
I'm a DUer.
If you have HTML rendering turned off, you will see the gibberish.
You should have HTML rendering turned off. Otherwise the HTML could exploit a security vulnerability in your email program and access your system. At the very least, it could have you downloading content from a page you did not wish to hit.
If you turn off HTML rendering, the HTML will be delivered as an attachment. If you really need to read it (sent from someone who formats their outgoing email in HTML) you can always read it when disconnected from the internet. That way there is no possibility it will hit a Web page without your permission.
If you have the option, you should format your outgoing mail in plain text rather than HTML so others can read your email with HTML rendering turned off.
Just my $.02.
Did you mean 1 in 100,000?
I reported them to the FBI.
In many cases, the URL will also contain encoded information to tell the spammer that your email address is "live" (i.e., someone is reading it and doesn't have a particularly good spam filter).
MailWasher: Good for pre-screening & bouncing SPAM
Earthlink aware of this and now is adding a scam protector as well as a spam protector to their website offerings.
I've noticed alot of that too and was wondering the same thing. I've been getting alot of phishing emails claiming to be from e-bay or paypal. Just remember, no matter how real it looks, if they ask you to click there link to log in it's a fraud.
I got one from Citi Bank last week asking me to verify my credit card info. The scary part is how did they know I have a Citi Bank credit card?
I'd really have figured it would be around 1 in ten thousand.
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