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Scareware scams switch to social network smut lures

One stop shops for info theft and scareware fraud

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Scams which attempt to trick users into volunteering personal credentials in return for free pornography have moved over onto social networks.

More than nine out of ten (92 per cent) of such adult phishing scams recorded in January took place on social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo, according to the latest monthly security report from Symantec. Once fraudsters have snaffled personal credentials, surfers are often redirected to sites punting scareware scams rather than smut.

Scareware scams more commonly rely on manipulating search engine results for search terms in the news, such as the death of an athlete practising for the luge event at the winter Olympics. These results are poisoned so that surfers looking for videos of this tragedy (as explained by Sophos here) are instead redirected to anti-virus scan scam portals, which warn of non-existent malware risks in a bid to trick users into buying worthless scamware.

Symantec's research suggests that searches for smut via social networks have been added to this more established black-hat SEO approach as a route to market (marks) for the scareware slingers.

Both the scam (from 2 to 4 per cent) and phishing categories (5 to 10 per cent) doubled as a percentage of all junk mail month-on-month from December 2009 to January 2010. 419-Nigerian spam made up 7 per cent of all spam, a new high.

Symantec's report also showed a high volume of Haiti Earthquake-related spam and phishing in January 2010, as unscrupulous fraudsters once again latched onto human tragedy as a route to personal enrichment. By contrast, the run up to Valentine's Day was accompanied by fewer scam and malware laced emails than in previous years.

Symantec also reported a 25 per cent decrease in the number of phishing attacks last month, primarily due to a decrease in the volume of attacks created using phishing toolkits. This is not necessarily good news, with both Symantec and Ironkey reporting that phishing attacks are becoming more targeted on attacking major brands.

A full copy of the report can be found here. ®

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