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04 Jul 2006

Spammers resort to cartoons in latest stock pump-and-dump campaign

"You can't handle the loot!!!" claims email

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have reminded computer users to be wary of unsolicited share-dealing advice they receive via the internet, following the latest campaign from spammers.

In the latest example of a pump-and-dump spam campaign, where criminals attempt to manipulate stock prices in order to make themselves quick and easy profits, spammers have targeted shares in a company called Digital Learning Management Corp.

The spam emails show a cartoon of a man pushing a large sum of money around in a wheelbarrow with the exultation, "You can't handle the loot!!!". Another cartoon shows a man leaping into the air in excitement behind a large bag full of coins.

Hidden amongst the text is random gray writing on a white background, which is hard for the human eye to read but is designed to try and fool simple anti-spam filters into not blocking the email message.

The spam email encourages people to buy stock in Digital Learning Management Corp

The spam email encourages people to buy stock in Digital Learning Management Corp.

"The cutesy cartoons shouldn't fool anyone into thinking this is impartial advice from an anonymous internet angel," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The spammers are only interested in getting as many people as possible to purchase shares, pumping up the price so that they can then sell theirs at a substantial profit. People should think twice about why someone they've never heard from before might be telling them which shares to buy."

Pump-and-dump stock campaigns work by spammers purchasing stock at a cheap price and then artificially inflating its price by encouraging others to purchase more (often by spamming "good news" about the company to others). The spammers then sell off their stock at a profit. Last week, Sophos reported how shares in a cosmetics company rose sharply following a similar spam campaign.

Sophos experts report that pump-and-dump stock campaigns account for approximately 15% of all spam, a large increase from January 2005 when it accounted for less than 1 in 100 of all spam emails.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend against 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