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28 Mar 2006

Beware of increase in child-porn spam, Sophos warns

No longer happy to let websites await visitors, child-porn email campaigns are spamming invitations into inboxes

IWF
Sophos works closely with the IWF to combat internet child abuse.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centres, have warned computer users of an increase in highly offensive emails designed to lure new web traffic to one of several child-porn websites.

As a result of aggressive spam campaigns, Sophos has seen a threefold increase in the amount of illegal child-porn websites over the past week. Sophos works closely with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the authorized UK organisation that combats illegal internet content, and reports the discovery of any illegal child-porn website to the organisation.

Most of the email samples, collected at Sophos's global network of monitoring stations, clearly suggest that the content will be offensive. Even the tamest of subject lines, '**P*E*D*O***L*O*V*E**' or 'Lolita pictures and videos', are fairly explicit. The email message invites the recipient to click on a link to view illegal material.

To get through certain email filters that might look for specific text patterns, the author of these spam messages appears to have used extracts from a quotation database, selected at random. Other tricks used to slip through the spam traps include using asterisks between letters in the email subject headings.

"Seeing such offensive emails in our spam traps is always upsetting because no one should need to deal with such unpleasant material," said Carole Theriault, senior security consultant at Sophos. "It is too early to say whether this is a new trend, but this week has shown definite growth in the number of child-porn websites being linked to from spam messages."

News of these spam campaigns coincides with 18 of the world's most prominent financial institutions and internet firms joining the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, which aims to eradicate commercial child pornography by 2008.

Sophos strongly recommends that all companies and home computer users protect their email with a consolidated solution to thwart the threats of spam, spyware and viruses.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.