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29 Jun 2006

World Cup spam disrupts workers as football tournament heats up

Poll reveals almost half of all companies are not doing anything to control World Cup computer usage

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have reported that workers around the world are being disrupted by spam campaigns related to the World Cup as the international soccer tournament draws closer to its conclusion.

World Cup-related spam campaigns seen by Sophos include notifications of bogus FIFA-sponsored lottery wins, deals to get cheaper phone calls until the end of the tournament, and offers of tickets to the matches in Germany.

"Spammers are taking advantage of the fact that many workers will be more willing to read and respond to emails about the world's greatest sporting event than a run-of-the-mill spam," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "But junk email clogs up inboxes, affects business productivity, and in the worst cases can lead to financial loss and identity theft."

In one of the latest junk email campaigns seen by experts at Sophos, spammers claim that if recipients tell them who they think will win the World Cup they will receive a free $500 Visa Gift Card.

The spam asks recipients who they think will win the World Cup

The spam claims to offer a $500 Visa Gift Card to recipients who report back who they think will win the World Cup.

Clicking anywhere on the email, however, actually results in the user's internet browser being taken to a website which is promoting plasma TV sets to watch the international football games.

Clicking on the email takes users to a website promoting plasma television sets

Clicking on the email takes users to a website promoting plasma television sets.

"You may think you are in with a chance of receiving a free gift by telling the spammers the name of your favorite football team, but in fact you will be playing straight into their hands," continued Cluley. "Users will feel as sick as a parrot when they realise they are unlikely to ever receive a prize, and have confirmed that their email address is active to the people who fill up their email inboxes with junk every day."

To determine the controls put in place for World Cup-related computer usage at work, in a recent Sophos web poll, IT professionals were asked what actions they would take. 44 percent of all respondents revealed that they won't control it at all, compared with just 15 percent who said they would prevent live streaming, 11 percent who would block all related applications, eight percent who would track software downloading and 20 percent who would use a combination of methods to control this kind of computer usage.

"Allowing users to more or less do as they please online seriously exposes their computers and the network to infectious attack, so it's astonishing that so many organizations aren't doing more to control this kind of PC usage," continued Cluley. "Every organisation needs an IT security policy in place, as well as someone tasked with enforcing it."

Sophos experts recently reported on the malicious Sixem email worm, which infected Windows computers using the ruse that the attached file contained pictures of naked football fans.

Sophos recommends that companies protect their email gateways with a consolidated solution to defend against spam, viruses, and spyware.

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