In the run-up to Valentine's Day, Sophos has reported seeing a rise in the number of spam campaigns selling romantic gifts such as jewelry, chocolate and lingerie. However, a new Sophos poll reveals that just five percent of computer users now admit to purchasing goods sold via spam*, compared to nine percent this time last year.
"The results are in - spammers are no longer facing such an easy ride when it comes to flogging goods, whether they're personalized Valentine's Day gifts or the latest and greatest in ten-day weight-loss medication," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The simple fact is that if no-one bought goods sold via junk email the spammers would stop. It's encouraging to see a drop in the number of people who own up to making purchases, but with the number of email users worldwide, five percent is still more than enough to keep the spammers in business."
Two examples of Valentine's Day spam.
According to Sophos, many of the Valentine's Day themed campaigns make use of graphics embedded in the regular email text. This type of image spam, most often used for promoting stock pump-and-dump scams or medication, is popular with spammers thanks to its ability to bypass anti-spam filters that scan text content only. Image spam rose by almost 100 percent during 2006, from 18.5 percent in January to 35.1 percent at the end of December.
"Image spam is set to be one of the key spam trends during 2007. Not only does it stand a better chance of reaching recipients' mailboxes, but particularly when marketing visually appealing products, it's a much more effective way of inducing people into making a purchase," continued Cluley. "But whether they contain images, weblinks or any other trick designed to bypass filters, unsolicited emails continue to cause problems for companies around the world, and in order to make the perpetrators disappear, more people need to be resolute and stop responding to spam."
In January Sophos published its annual Security Threat Report, which detailed the latest trends in spam and the techniques used by spammers to commit identity theft and swindle money out of internet users.
Sophos recommends that companies protect themselves with a consolidated IT security solution to protect against the threats of spam, spyware and malware.
* Source: Sophos online poll, 542 respondents, February 2007.
Disclaimer: Please bear in mind that this poll is not scientific and is provided for information purposes only. Sophos makes no guarantees about the accuracy of the results other than that they reflect the choices of the users who participated.
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.