Inbox Insider: Spammers take advantage of news events, holiday marketing

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To catch consumers off guard, spammers keep on top of the news, then send timely e-mail attacks. That's why spam attacks spike around major news events, such as an election or the Census, or holidays such as Christmas, Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.

In the past week, as legitimate marketers distributed their Easter messages, so did spammers – except they sent malicious e-mails.

According to MessageLabs Intelligence, a division of IT security company Symantec, a number of Easter-themed spam messages were distributed on Friday, April 2. One read, “Happy Easter! Save on special events!” Another encouraged consumers to click on a link to view a 3D card featuring the Easter Bunny. In reality, the links connected to malicious executable files that can infect computers.

Another message, selling Easter baskets, included links to a legitimate corporate Web site. However, such a message is still considered spam due to the amount of random text and symbols hidden in its HTML source. Those messages are also similar to the e-mails used in botnet attacks.

Mathew Nisbet, malware data analyst at Symantec Hosted Services, warns that attacks may come from a rogue third-party company trying to make money from affiliate marketing, where legitimate companies pay a fee for every visit to their sites.

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