DM CONFIDENTIAL — In McAfee’s latest research report, “June 2009 Spam Report,” the antivirus software and network security company reviewed the spam world during President Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office and explained why it expects a troubling trend to continue.
While the usefulness of utilizing President Obama’s first 100 days in office as a lens through which to view the spam world is dubious, McAfee broke this timeline down into chunks of about 30 days.
During days 1-30, Obama-related spam declined sharply after Inauguration Day, according to McAfee. Valentine’s Day-related spam did not see quite the surge that was expected.
Days 31-60 saw the increase of “classmates” spam, which flowed over into Facebook by the second week of March. The Conficker zombie botnet also made a foray into the main spotlight as April began.
During days 61-100 saw spam levels nearly double across the globe between April 1 and April 8, according to McAfee, “moving from a three-month low to a four-month high.”
The company concluded that “the first 100 days of Obama’s presidency were mostly business as usual in the spam world.”
McAfee went on to highlight a troubling trend: e-mail users have become lax in monitoring their inboxes because of their reliance on improved anti-spam filters.
“This carelessness can result in a higher click rate on the fewer spam messages that do bypass the filters. We expect this unfortunate trend will continue,” McAfee noted in its report.
Three e-mail features were underscored as examples of tactics leading to phishing and spam campaigns.
Branding was the first, and is categorized as e-mails with the appearance of originating from a trusted source “because they look just like the real thing.” Branded campaigns from late February and early March involving Classmates and Facebook were cited, where links were placed for users to download a “Flash player installer,” which was actually malware. In March, Web sites attempted to look like genuine video feeds from Reuters.
Images was the second, a tactic in which images associated with pharmaceuticals, notably via Chinese Web sites are used.
Headline spam was the third, which involves a “subject line or short message blurb” with a link in the e-mail. McAfee noted that swine flu presented the perfect example of this.
In the conclusion, the company notes that as long as e-mail users “continue to behave as suckers, spammers will use sophisticated tactics to separate us from our money.”
A separate report released by Symantec’s MessageLabs revealed that 90.4 percent of all e-mail was spam in May, a 5 percentage point increase from the previous month.