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05 Oct 2007

YouTube's "invite-a-friend" feature exploited to send spam

Arcade games and dating websites promoted by spam emails

IT security and control firm Sophos has advised computer users to be on their guard after it uncovered evidence that spammers are exploiting the popular video website YouTube in order to promote their own goods and online stores.

Spam emails seen by Sophos claim to come from the email address service@youtube.com, and attempt to lure users into visiting dating websites or offering prizes of the recently released Halo 3 arcade game for the XBOX 360 console. By putting their spam message in the 'comments' section of the 'invite-a-friend' facility on YouTube, hackers have been able to hijack the website for the purposes of sending unsolicited email.

The emails arrive from YouTube Service <service@youtube.com>
The emails arrive from 'YouTube Service <service@youtube.com>'.

"Normally spammers take over innocent people's PCs to send their unwanted messages across the internet. In this case, however, they don't need to do that. Instead they are using a website to relay a message on to their intended audience," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The criminals are hoping that by embedding themselves inside a YouTube email they will be able to slip past spam filters at the recipient's email gateway."

Sophos experts question, however, how successful the unsolicited messages will be at generating cash for the spammers.

"This is hardly the most compelling example of a spammer advertising his wares to an internet user," continued Cluley. "It may be an effective way of waltzing past some spam defenses by hiding under YouTube's overcoat, but chances are that most people will simply erase the message in their inbox and not visit the site. Nevertheless it doesn't require many positive responses for the spammers' efforts to have been worthwhile."

In August, Sophos reported how cybercriminals were sending out junk mails posing as links to a YouTube video, but were really designed to infect the recipient's PC with a variant of the Storm worm.

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.

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.