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Spammers jump on Gmail, Hotmail mass-hack gravy train

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This week's airing of some 30,000 compromised Windows Live and Google Mail accounts has coincided with a spike in spam from those two services that promote sketchy electronics dealers, a researcher said.

Over the past few days, spam promoting fraudulent electronics stores has increased by as much as 40 per cent, according to Patrik Runald, senior manager of security research at Websense. Almost all of it originates from Hotmail or Gmail addresses and most are sent only to contacts in the address book of the compromised account.

Such faux testimonials for online electronics stores have been around for months. The significant increase comes as miscreants have sprayed the web with the user names and passwords for as many as 30,000 webmail accounts. The timing makes Runald think there's a connection between the two.

"The correlation of these lists going into the public domain and a 35 to 40 per cent increase in these types of scams going around on Hotmail and Gmail, its a nice coincidence if nothing else," he told The Reg. "It sounds reasonable to believe they're actually related."

Over the past 24 hours, Websense has tracked more than a half-dozen domains used to peddle MacBooks, Blackberries and other electronics for prices that sound too good to be true. One of the sites, sale-buys.com, for instance, was offering a Toshiba Satellite Pro laptop for $320.

It offered only two payment options: Western Union and a bank transfer. Not surprisingly, several people who fell for the scam and were contacted by Websense reported not receiving merchandise they had paid for. They told Websense they were tricked at least in part because the email appeared to come from someone they knew.

One explanation for the increase in the scam spam is that the people behind it are taking advantage of the fresh infusion of compromised email addresses included in the lists.

"In a way, it's a very old-school type of attack," Runald said. "There are no advanced trojans or anything." ®

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