Image spam fluctuates, fraud spam up

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Image spam is decreasing despite recent highs and fraud spam is on the rise, according to a new study by Symantec.

In "The State of Spam: A Monthly Report June 2007," Symantec examined spam trends during the month of May and found that spam accounts for about 65 percent of overall e-mail traffic, which is consistent with previous reports. May saw a decrease in image spam, fraudlent messages that contain graphics, to only 16 percent of overall spam. This is down from 27 percent and 37 percent in the months of April and March respectively, and down from a peak of 52 percent in January.

"This shows that people are more informed about image spam and that e-mail vendors are using more techniques to block images spam," said Doug Bowers, senior director of anti-abuse engineering at Symantec, Cupertino, CA.

Scams and fraud spam continued to rise from 9 percent in March to 13 percent of overall spam in May. Although there is a decline in traditional image spam, Symantec has observed an increase in the type of spam that links or embeds reference images contained in spam.

"The fact that we're seeing an increase is fraud e-mails means that people are buying into and responding to these messages," Mr. Bowers said. "When we see an increase in a particular type of spam, it means that spammers have been successful with their deception."

The global spam category breakdown saw 22 percent of spam regarding financial messaging, 22 percent regards product messaging, 18 percent referring to health, 16 percent about the Internet, 9 percent on scams, 5 percent on leisure, and 4 percent each on adult and fraud.

Holidays are a factor that increases spam. As legitimate marketers send out e-mail to promote products, spammers send deceptive ones. Symantec found Mother's Day and Father's Day spam messages this past month.

Another trend that the e-mail firm noticed is that 419 spam continues to evolve from the traditional offers of oil and gas reserves or large sums of money to offers of prospective careers.

Symantec will continue to keep an eye on changes in image spam and following the increases in fraud spam throughout the month.

"One of the things we are looking for is to see if spammers are regrouping and trying to find another way to use image spam," Mr. Bowers said.

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