Halloween spam tries to spirit away personal information

October 19, 2007 Sophos Press Release

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have intercepted an attempt by spammers to hijack Halloween festivities to grab personal information from innocent internet users.

Sophos has identitied a spam email campaign that tries to lure recipients into handing over a wide range of personal information with the promise of a $250 gift card. The email uses a variety of painful puns associated with the spooky celebrations on 31 October.

The Halloween email tells recipients they will receive a gift card
The Halloween email tells recipients they will receive a gift card.

Clicking on links contained in the email takes computer users to a website containing Halloween imagery. The website asks for a large amount of personal information including email addresses, postal addresses, phone numbers and date of birth, before presenting a stream of questionnaires on subjects as diverse as student loans, gender and cigarette smoking.

Clicking on links in the email takes users to a website. The gift card pictured on the website has the name 'Count Dracula'
Clicking on links in the email takes users to a website. The gift card pictured on the website has the name 'Count Dracula'.

"It's not immediately obvious whether this spam is being sent to commit identity theft or whether it's market research gone mad. If you visit the site and give it your personal information the chances are that you will be bombarded with unwanted junk email until hell freezes over," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "There's no evidence to reassure people that they will really receive a gift card - and as the people behind this website have already proven themselves prepared to send unsolicited spam, this is probably more of a trick than a treat."

Sophos notes that this is not the first time that spammers have used festivities or public holidays to promote their goods. Every year, for instance, spammers leap upon the opportunity of St Valentine's Day, to sell lingerie, chocolate, jewelry and even viagra.

In July 2007, Sophos published its Security Threat Report, examining the latest trends in spam, malware and hacking. The report described how spammers were using a variety of techniques to promote products and steal information from innocent internet users.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can control network access and defend against the threats of spam, hackers, spyware and viruses.