SOURCE: BitDefender

July 01, 2008 08:03 ET

E-Mail Spam Morphs in First Half of 2008

Changes in Content and Distribution Medium Found in BitDefender Survey

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA--(Marketwire - July 1, 2008) - E-mail spam went through an important change in terms of content and distribution medium during the first half of 2008, according to BitDefender®, an award-winning provider of antivirus software and data security solutions. BitDefender today released the results of its spam and phishing survey from January through June 2008; last year's highly advertised stock spam dropped from 25% to just 2%, while the formerly intrusive image spam continued its descending trend.

In terms of media and techniques, the most notable trend the analysts uncovered concerns the revival of the text-based spam which reached 70% this year, compared to 20% for the same period of 2007. Image spam continued its decline and dropped to 3%, compared to 60% last year.

"Plain text continues to be the most prolific medium for e-mail spam distribution, especially due to its simplicity, reduced size and extreme versatility," said Andra Miloiu, BitDefender Spam Analyst.

Text-based spam still appeals to automated scripts for word scrambling, rephrasing or (synonymic) substitution, while image spam usually deploys obfuscated content. Other types of spam, such as e-mails bearing PDF attachments, audio and video files, etc., decreased in popularity, accounting for 10-15% of e-threats.

In the first half of 2008, e-mail spam's content lost its emphasis on stock options, while spam media changes -- dominated in the last half of 2007 by various formats of image and audio stock spam -- reverted back to non-obfuscated and identical text-based message templates.

The Top 10 list for the first half of 2008's most advocated content through e-mail spam includes:

    01    Drugs
    02    Replica Watches
    03    Phishing (tool for)
    04    Pirated Software
    05    Pornography
    06    Loans
    07    Hire & Employment
    08    Trojan Viruses Spread (tool for)
    09    Dating
    10    Diploma

Phishing trends for the first half of 2008 indicate a variation and growth of the spoofed banks and targeted clients. Primarily, forged elements belong to the US financial organizations, while the possible victims are now native English speakers who reside in the US, UK or Canada, although last week BitDefender's researchers received several notifications about ongoing attacks from Spain, Italy and France. Most arguments invoked in the illegitimate e-mails are still negative, such as account blocking or expiration and account details update for security reasons.

The Top 10 list of counterfeit business identities in the first half of 2008 includes:

    01    eBay
    02    Paypal
    03    Bank of America
    04    Wachovia
    05    Fifth Third Bank
    06    NatWest
    07    Poste Italiane
    08    Sparkasse
    09    Regions Bank
    10    Volksbank

"Spammers and phishers continue to improve their skills in replicating and forging legitimate message characteristics. However, the simple text e-mails proved their efficiency as well, rounding up the total figure of ID theft victims to 50,000 each month," said Vlad Vâlceanu, Head of BitDefender Antispam Research Lab.

For more information on this survey, please visit http://www.bitdefender.com/site/VirusInfo/

About BitDefender®

BitDefender is the creator of one of the industry's fastest and most effective lines of internationally certified security software. Since our inception in 2001, BitDefender has continued to raise the bar and set new standards in proactive threat prevention. Every day, BitDefender protects tens of millions of home and corporate users across the globe -- giving them the peace of mind of knowing that their digital experiences will be secure. BitDefender solutions are distributed by a global network of value-added distribution and reseller partners in more than 100 countries worldwide. More information is available on our security solutions' site.