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04 May 2005

Spam is no laughing matter, Sophos reports on apologetic joke trend

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus and spam analysis centres, are unsure whether to laugh or cry at a recent development in the spammers' arsenal: apologetic humour.

Some of the latest unsolicited spam emails are including jokes in an attempt, they say, to decrease the irritation of recipients. In the latest incident, a spammer trying to sell patches for penis enlargement has bulk-mailed hundreds of thousands of people with a joke about a blonde woman.

The spam email contains a joke about a blonde woman
The spam email contains a joke about a blonde woman.

"The spammers' idea is quite cunning. Even though good anti-spam software will typically mark messages like this with a high spam score, some users may deliberately retrieve it and read it if they know a joke is contained inside," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The spammers need only take any decent (or indecent) internet joke, perhaps by subscribing to one of the many legitimate joke of the day services, and stick a brief apology for the inconvenience and a link to their unsolicited advert at the end. Then they spam millions of unsuspecting users."

In the past spammers have deliberately included large sections of legitimate text, such as paragraphs from news stories, in their emails in an attempt to "unbalance" anti-spam products trying to determine if an email is a legitimate communication or spam. Spammers including jokes in their email campaigns may also be doing so in an attempt to slip past the more rudimentary anti-spam products.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend businesses from the threats of both spam and viruses; and that users do not open or reply to unsolicited emails.

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