Application security

Storm Worm uses e-cards to push spam near all-time high

Researchers at Secure Computing reported a 17 percent hike in the amount of spam from last Wednesday to Thursday, totaling 89 percent of all email during that time.

Last week’s spam level was 53 percent higher than July’s daily average, and 70 percent above that of June, according to the San Jose, Calif.-based messaging security vendor.

Secure Computing blamed the Storm Worm epidemic and high levels of PDF, Excel and greeting card spam for the nearly unprecedented spam levels.

Dmitri Alperovitch, principal research scientist at Secure Computing, told today that spam levels are near those of late December 2006, an all-time high.

"Since the Storm Worm came on the scene around January, it’s been able to create a lot of zombies and it’s been used largely to send out stock-based promotions. And they’re using the greeting cards to send out more viruses, take over the machines and enlarge the botnet," he said. "We’ve been able to tie this to one of the largest spam groups in Russia."

Alperovitch said he expected spam to exceed 90 percent of all email within the next month.

Last week, researchers from Postini reported that between Aug. 7 and 9, the volume of spam rose from an average of 53 percent of all email in one day to 175 percent above normal.

Adam Swidler, senior manager of Postini’s senior marketing group, told last week that a pump-and-dump stock scam sent the total amount of spam up 445 percent in just one day.

That particular PDF spam attack sent unwanted emails to recipients urging them to buy stock in Prime Time Group Inc., resulting in the artificial inflation of the stock price.

After the price increases, spammers sell the stock they purchased, enabling them to make thousands of dollars a day, according to Postini.

Symantec’s "State of Spam" report for August disclosed that spam using PDF, Excel or other attachments increased during July, while image spam decreased dramatically.

Researchers at Sophos said they captured nine million e-card messages, 6.3 percent of all spam, during a 48-hour period last week.

Ron O’Brien, senior security analyst at Sophos, told today that greeting card attacks are becoming more specific in their attacks on recipients.

"We’re continuing to see variations of the storm malware, and what’s particularly concerning is the rate at which e-greeting cards are going out, because they have become the primary means of infection," he said.


Click here to email Online Editor Frank Washkuch.

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