2 April 2009 | Team Tamar

Spam is back

Being a writer and a linguist at heart, I have to confess that I do suffer from a weird fascination with spam emails. I love reading the highly imaginative subject titles (a personal favourite: Paris Hilton tosses midget in street), I get a kick out of deciphering the intended meaning of a text clearly written by someone, or something, who is rather unfamiliar with English language and seeing the lengths and language contortions which spammers will go to avoid getting caught in the spam filter. And I do admire how sneaky spam emailer’s can be…lately I have even been getting spam mail which claims to come from within our company – with relevant subject titles too.

I also have a keen interest in content scraping and the resulting blogs and websites, but I do know just how bad the viruses and bugs can be, and I never open spam mail. Not to mention that it’s incredibly annoying to receive about 100 emails a day which are absolute rubbish, and also potential threats to your computers health.

So it was with mixed feelings that I read today that, according to Google statistics, spam levels are back up to a pre- McColo high again. Symantec noted in its quarterly report that one in every 1.32 emails is now spam, which is as high as the spam level was before the shutting down of McColo. For those who may not know, McColo was reported to be hosting phishing and malware sites, and as a result all the upstream service providers disconnected from the company, bringing spam levels down drastically.


Spammers warm up for another long day of content scraping

The McColo shutdown took place only recently, in November 2008, but the spammers have since pulled themselves back from the brink and Google reports say that the seven-day spam volume in the second half of March has been as high as during the McColo period. 

According to the Google Postini spam report, the first quarter of 2009 shows the highest level of spam growth to date. According to Amanda Kleha from the Google security and archiving team, “It’s difficult to ascertain exactly how spammers have rebuilt in the wake of McColo, but data suggests they’re adopting new strategies to avoid a McColo-type takedown from occurring again. Specifically, the recent upward trajectory of spam could indicate that spammers are building botnets that are more robust but send less volume—or at least that they haven’t enabled their botnets to run at full capacity because they’re wary of exposing a new ISP as a target.”

As they are adapting to new strategies, search engine security features have to be tightened up to curb these spammers, who are now using location based spamming which is pretty effective. According to experts, location-based spam is highly sophisticated in the way it presents itself, using the IP to bring relevant information to match the victim’s location Email users are more likely to click on and open emails which claim to be from trusted local sources. Once they click on one of those links, it will open the floodgates of spam to their email address and also bring in other serious security risks.

Team Tamar