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Spammers Target Executives for Corporate Espionage

E-mails are attacking C-level executive officers from the last 18-24 months, according to messaging security and management services providers MessageLabs, according to news reported by Internetnews.com on June 29, 2007. Meanwhile, MessageLabs has observed a fresh surge in such attacks in the past few days where 500 single e-mails attacks targeted senior management employees in just one day.

The e-mails targeted CEOs, CFOs and CIOs and also Directors of Research, Directors of Development and company Presidents. The attacks precisely addressed them with the name and designation of the victim in the e-mail subject line, said MessageLabs.

The e-mails contained an attachment of Microsoft Word document that looked like an invoice but actually had an executable code embedded in it. On opening the attachment, the executable code installed a Trojan that would infect and compromise the user's PC.

Today, spam mails are designed cleverly by using a professional-looking PDF file as an attachment that appears like an investment newsletter. In this recent attack on executives, spammers have used the PDF technique to play their trick on them.

Not long ago spammers have been using pictures or images in JPG files and embedding them in the body message to defeat anti-spam filters in recognizing the messages. The image spam is mainly used for industrial spying, which presents on a much larger scale than what people may think.

The practice of industrial or corporate spying is most prevalent where offenders dig out information to sell them on the underground world. Thus, such espionage attacks target companies, which store high levels of data on their systems, said Dave Hahn, director of product and market strategy at MessageLabs, according to news published by Internetnews.com on June 29, 2007.

Most C-level officers are under the impression that their system network is adequately protected, so they simply forward their e-mails to junior employees. But since the junior worker obviously would not question the executive's instruction, he opens the attachment while the malicious code does its infectious job, said Hahn.

Toolkits that resemble virus writers' Visual Studio are floating on the underground Internet. Here, crooks create malware and implant them.

Related article: Spammers Continue their Campaigns Successfully

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