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Translation services used to pump out polyglot spam

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Spammers are making greater use of automated translation services and templates to create multiple language junk mail runs.

The tactic has resulted in even greater volumes of spam in email traffic to countries in continental Europe, in particular, according to the latest monthly security report by net services firm Messagelabs. While global spam volumes dropped slightly by around one percentage point to 89.4 per cent, junk mail flows into countries including Germany, France and The Netherlands are experiencing levels of over 95 per cent.

Germany overtook France as the world's most dumped on country, with junk mail levels rising to 97.5 per cent. This volume compares with 86.0 per cent in the US, 93.6 per cent in the UK and 90.6 per cent in Japan.

Local language spam makes up 46 per cent of spam in Germany and 53 per cent in France. In The Netherlands, 25 percent of spam is in Dutch. In Japan, 62.3 per cent is in non-English languages and in China this number is 54.7 per cent.

MessageLabs said greater use of online translation tools, rather than other factors such as internationalisation of those who send spam, accounts for the changes.

"Translation services and templates enable the spammers to push out multiple-language spam attacks, and some dubious translations through the use of poor online services highlight the use of these antics," explained Paul Wood, MessageLabs Intelligence senior analyst at Symantec. "Non-English spam now accounts for one in every 20 spam messages, a figure we’ll be closely monitoring to see if spammers continue with their global expansion."

Other developments monitored by MessageLabs suggest VXers have taken an early summer holiday. 58.8 per cent of the incidents of web-based malware detected by MessageLabs in June were down to new strains of malware. In July, by contrast, 99.3 per cent of web-based malware was down to variants it had logged before the start of the month, and just 0.7 per cent was new. MessageLabs said that despite the slowdown, the number of websites detected which harboured malware of one sort or another reached a nine month high of 3,618.

The July edition of MessageLabs' net security report can be found here (PDF).

In related spam trend news, security firm McAfee reports that scammers are capitalising on public concerns about the swine flu pandemic to pump out more junk mail linked to dodgy pharmaceuticals. Spam levels for the three months between March and June clocked in at around 92 per cent, McAfee reports.

The vast majority of junk mails originate from networks of malware infected Windows PCs (botnets). Fourteen million computers were turned into botnet clients last quarter, an average of more than 150,000 computers infected every day, according to McAfee. The US made the largest single contribution to this rising zombie tide, accounting for 15 per cent of newly compromised computers. ®

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