Press Releases

Browse our press release archive

30 Mar 2006

Spammers take a novel approach to selling goods online

Spam campaign includes text from classic Russian novel

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have identified a new spam campaign that uses text from a classic Russian novel in an attempt to evade anti-spam software.

The unsolicited email messages contain sections of Mikhail Bulgakov's book "The Master and Margarita", considered to be one of the greatest Russian novels of the 20th Century, but has embedded graphics promoting websites which sell goods to enhance sexual performance.

The spam messages quote sections of a Russian novel

The spam messages quote sections of a Russian novel.

Today's spammers include news stories, jokes and even text from novels in an attempt to fool anti-spam software into thinking the email is legitimate. In the case of this campaign, the spammers are not even including a clickable link to the spammers' website, but rather asking prospective purchasers to type it in by hand, in order to evade detection by less sophisticated email filters.

"Whether or not Mikhail Bulgakov anticipated the level of success that his novel would eventually meet with is uncertain, but its a safe bet that he didn't anticipate it being used to flog sexual enhancement drugs," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "People are bored to the back teeth with junk email, and should ensure the goods peddled by the spammers do not become bestsellers by never purchasing items marketed in this way."

Other versions of the spam message contain other graphics

Other versions of the spam message contain other graphics offering enhanced sexual performance.

For more information about the latest trends in spam and viruses, read the Sophos Security Threat Management Report 2005. Amongst other topics, the report identifies which countries around the world have been responsible for relaying the most spam during 2005, and that pornographic spam and messages attempting "pump-and-dump" stock scams have surged.

Download "Sophos Security Threat Management Report 2005"

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend businesses from the threats of both spam 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