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Spammers Using Shortened URLs Adopt Health-related Subjects

In its latest MessageLabs Intelligence Report, Symantec indicates that spammers continue to popularly use the URL shortening technique to send spam mails that try to sell pharmaceuticals on the Net.

The report states that beginning with pharmaceuticals, spammers proceed to capitalize on the public interest in health-related matters like Obama's new healthcare schemes and swine flu to send out voluminous shortened URL spam campaigns through the Donbot botnet.

Symantec said - various subject lines along with the shortened web-links in the spam mails, promoting knock-off medicines, normally revolve around ongoing events like one that was observed during late July 2009. It mentioned President Obama's announcement of handing out inexpensive meds to netizens who didn't have a health insurance. Another one amusingly posted "Obama Opens Online Pharmacy."

According to the report, there had been continuous outbreaks of spam campaigns projecting numerous shortened URLs in July-August 2009, with the maximum runs reported on July 26, 2009, accounting for 9.25% of the entire spam globally.

Meanwhile, Donbot, apart from sending out spam campaigns containing shortened URLs that MessageLabs first reported during early July 2009, was also behind three more junk e-mail campaigns in recent times.

Additionally, security specialists state that because of a continuous trend of shortened URLs being sent through spam, there is occurring a forced exit of the websites, which provide services of URL shortening. Hence, these websites are doing everything to mitigate the spam by discouraging users from creating harmful web-links via these sites' services.

Symantec in the report highlights that there has been a general decline in spam operations to 1% during August 2009 in comparison to that of July 2009. Further, malicious e-mail attachments continue as before when one in 297 electronic mails were laced with malware. phishing activity dropped slightly over July 2009, with one in 342 electronic mails involving one or the other form of phishing.

In the meantime, the recent shutdown of a spamming ISP in Latvia immediately led to the decline in spam levels by a good 38% for a brief 48 hours, the report further observes.

Related article: Spammers Continue their Campaigns Successfully

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