SOURCE: Marshal

May 15, 2008 09:05 ET

Spammers Switch From Remedies to Replicas

Switch From Health and Remedy Spam to Product Spam Reflects Spam Market's Growing Sophistication and Maturity

ATLANTA, GA--(Marketwire - May 15, 2008) - Spam promoting replica watches, pens and cheap jewelry has taken over from spam pushing male enlargement and sexual performance pills as the leading items for sale by spammers, according to new data released by Marshal's TRACE security team. This breaks a two-year reign of health-related spam, which previously accounted for 75-80 percent of all spam in circulation based on Marshal's statistics.

According to Marshal's TRACE team, the trend towards product spam rather than health or remedy spam reflects the increased sophistication and maturity of the spam market.

"Health spam has accounted for the vast majority of spam since we started keeping records about its composition two years ago," said Bradley Anstis, Marshal vice president of Products. "This trend towards items such as jewelry and software suggests that the spammers may be starting to increasingly understand their customers' buying behavior and the wider appeal of certain products."

The percentage of health spam promoting pharmaceutical products and herbal remedies has been eroded by substantial growth in the volume of product spam that promotes items like pirated software, replica watches and knock-off clothing labels.

Since January, the proportion of health spam in Marshal's spam traps has steadily decreased from 80 to 45 percent, while product spam has grown from 12 to 46 percent in the same period. Together, the two categories account for more than 90 percent of all spam in circulation.

"A handful of major spammers are behind this shift in spam," said Anstis. "They have the power to change the global make-up of spam thanks to the sizeable botnets under their control."

Major botnets such as Pushdo, Mega-D and Srizbi, for example, are responsible for this current trend. They are being used to send out huge volumes of spam promoting replica products.

"There is an alarming level of consistency in the products being promoted across different botnets," said Anstis. "It is clear that a small number of unprincipled operators are using these top spam botnets to push their products under brands such as Prestige Replicas, Exquisite Footwear, Canadian Pharmacy and Herbal King."

He added, "The shift in focus from remedies to product replicas suggests that the spammers have begun to appreciate differing levels of consumer confidence in the various products being promoted. Spammers might be thinking that counterfeit watches and pirated software have greater mainstream appeal with a wider audience than dubious pharmaceuticals that few people believe are effective."

Marshal also noted that a greater variety of counterfeit products are being promoted, some convincingly faking the genuine articles on legitimate looking websites.

"In the past, the kinds of replica products offered were limited mainly to watches ripping off brands like Rolex or Tag Heuer," said Anstis. "More recently, we have seen spammers branch out into a wider range of designer products like handbags, shoes, pens and other accessories, ripping off brands like Ugg, Prada, Versace and Dior."

More detail on the changing trends in health and product spam can be found of the Marshal TRACE Center: http://www.marshal.com/trace/traceitem.asp?article=637

About the Marshal TRACE Team

TRACE (Threat Research and Content Engineering) is a group of Marshal security analysts who constantly monitor and respond to Internet security threats through the TRACE website at www.marshal.com/trace. TRACE services are provided as part of standard product maintenance that includes updates to Marshal's unique, proprietary anti-spam technology, SpamCensor. TRACE analyzes spam, phishing and Internet security trends and provides frequent automated updates to Marshal customers. It also provides "Zero Day" security protection against new email and virus exploits the day they emerge.

About Marshal

Marshal is a global leader in content security across multiple protocols, enabling organizations to secure their IT environment, protect against threats and comply with corporate governance needs. Marshal provides customers with a complete portfolio of policy-driven email and Internet solutions that integrate content filtering, compliance, secure messaging and archiving. Forty percent of the Global Fortune 500 companies use Marshal security solutions to secure their corporate messaging networks and Web access against internal abuse and external threats such as viruses, spam and malicious code. More than 7 million users in over 18,000 companies worldwide use Marshal solutions to protect their networks, employees, business assets and corporate reputation and to comply with corporate governance legislation requirements.

Marshal's Americas headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia, with corporate headquarters in London (UK) and offices in Auckland (New Zealand), Houston (USA), Johannesburg (South Africa), Munich (Germany), Paris (France) and Sydney (Australia). More information is available at www.marshal.com.

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