Recent Spam Malware Trends and the Death of Osama bin Laden

by Christopher on April 17, 2011

It’s common practice for spammers and cybercriminals to incorporate major current event headlines into the subjects and bodies of their unsolicited bulk email messages. The tactic appeals to the recipient’s curiosity and desire to remain informed about the latest happenings around the world. Often, spam attempts to lure people to websites selling software or other goods, or to trick them into downloading malicious files by pretending to offer insider access to information otherwise not available.

In May 2011, spammers sought to capitalize on the death of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. Spam emails promised the notoriously top-secret photos of bin Laden’s corpse immediately following his killing by Seal Team 6. Other spam messages claimed they took the recipient to photo or video tours of the mansion bin Laden had been hiding out in, or to high-resolution Google Earth images of the compound.

Of course, none of these were legitimate. Many redirected to retail websites, while others installed malware on the victim’s computer when they attempted to run attachments to see images or videos.

Even the all-too-familiar Nigerian scammers tried to cash in on bin Laden’s death. Spam messages warned recipients that because of some curious large sum of money they’re owed, but have not claimed, they were flagged as possible terrorists. The spam goes on to assure the recipients that they can clear up any misunderstanding by sending certain personal information, and that they can then claim the large sum of money once everything is resolved.

Aside from bin Laden-related spam, malware was widely spread by other common spam tactics as well. Malicious files were identified in 4.10 percent of all global email traffic in May, notes the month’s internet security report from Kaspersky Lab. This represents a 0.45 percent hike over April.

In May, Trojan-Spy.HTML.Fruad.gen was the most widely emailed malicious program, accounting for almost 11 percent of all spam email malware. Email-Worm.Win32.Mydoom.m was the second most emailed malicious program for the month, found in 6.90 percent of all spam containing malware. In third place was Trojan.HTML.Fraud.fc, a newcomer to the malware top 10 list back in April.

Russia surpassed the United States in May as the country most targeted by spam email containing malware. The U.S. led previously, but fell to second place for the month with 10.79 percent of spam with malware being sent there. Russia received 14.45 percent of all malware-containing spam email in May. The Vietnamese were the third most targeted, receiving 8.11 percent of spam malware traffic. Great Britain and India rounded out the top five, getting 5.91 and 5.21 of spam with malicious files, respectively.

Remember that unsolicited email touting special insider information about hot news items is undoubtedly spam, and that the links and files contained therein can pose serious threats to your computer’s security. Get your news online from trusted sources, and subscribe to their blogs or RSS feeds to stay informed of the latest happenings.

More generally, any links and attachments contained in unsolicited email messages can jeopardize your private information and your computer’s security, disrupt its functions, and hijack your system for use in spamming botnets. Refrain from following such links and from opening files attached to unknown email. Even files sent from people you know can be fraudulent or compromised, so employ an up-to-date spam and antivirus filter, and always confirm with the sender that the files are legitimate if they seem at all out-of-character.

Posted in: Malware

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