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Spyware spam scams dissected

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Spyware spreaders have stepped up attempts to trick users into downloading malware using a combination of browser vulnerabilities and deceptive spam emails. In particular, bogus warnings about infestation are frequently being used to dupe Windows users into accepting potentially malign code, reports security vendor Websense. In many cases, these scam emails also request money in return for "fixing" supposed security problems that don't actually exist (example here).

Such social engineering tricks represent a common-enough spyware scumbag ploy but Websense has identified a number of common factors within attacks launched over the last fortnight. Many of the sites involved in these scams are hosted in either the Ukraine or Russia. Their domain names are registered in countries such as Vanuatu and Mexico. Code downloaded from these sites often includes several pieces of spyware, adware, and other potentially unwanted software. Removing any of this software often forces users to fill out a survey.

The same IP netblocks associated with these nefarious sites have often recently been used to host malicious code such as Trojan horse downloaders and host-file redirection software, Websense reports. Furthermore, IP netblocks of these scam hosting sites are often hosting other questionable sites such as fraudulent search engines. Several of the 1,500 sites analysed by Websense contain links to other sites that are hosting IE exploit code.

In summary, these scam emails subject recipients to a noxious cocktail of unpleasantness that's best avoided. Screen shots of these spyware scam emails can be found on Websense's website here. ®

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