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Spammers go island hopping to bypass filter

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Anti-spam researchers at security company McAfee have discovered a new spamming trend nicknamed 'spam island-hopping'.

The new trend involves spammers using the domain names of small islands as website links in spam campaigns. McAfee has traced spam activity from the Isle of Man to the tiny tropical island of Tokelau in the South Pacific.

Traditionally, spammers have used well known top level domains such as dot-com, dot-biz or dot-info. By using top level domains from small island countries, spammers attempt to avoid detection by using domains that spam filters do not recognise accustomed as they are to blocking the well known domains.

Using a lesser-known top level domain changes the game and makes it harder to distinguish spam from legitimate e-mail by examining the links in the e-mails.

This trend was first discovered when McAfee researchers noticed a significant increase in the use of dot-st domains, which is the top level domain for Sao Tome and Principe, a small island off the west coast of Africa.

This unusual activity raised flags for McAfee's researchers, who then tracked the spammers on a virtual migration around the globe. Subsequently, spam using top level domains from small islands has continued to increase.

"This new trend is another example of spammers' relentless quest to spread their abuse of internet domains far and wide," said Guy Roberts, senior development manager on McAfee's anti-spam research & development team. "Some of these islands have dozens of spammed domains per square mile."

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