Housing spam on the rise; image spam drops off: Symantec report

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Spammers have taken a special interest in the US housing market, capitalizing on news about the US housing slump and the recent interest rate cut, as PDF, image and e-card spam fell in September, according to a new report by Symantec.

According to Symantec's monthly report, "The State of Spam in September," spam levels continue to grow with overall levels at the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) layer in September increasing slightly to average 70 percent of total e-mail, compared with 69 percent in August.

In the report, Symantec observed a large volume of spam messages which are trying to tap into the housing market uncertainty. The spam messages range from refinancing deals to offers on houses to asking users if the "Equity" in their home is being used. Subject lines include: "Pay your house off in 5 to 7 years" and "Looking to sell your house fast?"

"This is just another example of how spammers are using current news events to target individuals," said Doug Bowers, senior director of anti abuse engineering at Symantec.

These malware messages encourage recipients to give a large amount of personal information about themselves including name, mailing address, e-mail address and telephone number.

Image spam, which has recently fallen out of favor with spammers, faded even further in September and averaged 7 percent of total spam, compared with 10 percent in August.

While image spam is declining, text-based attacks are still occurring often. In September Symantec noticed that one particular "Work at home" spam attack comprised of over 100 million spam messages. "Work at home" messages that promise high wages for minimal effort have long been popular among spammers. Legitimate recruitment message are common these days, which makes it an attractive ruse to spammers.

"This is common, since it is a way to play off of things that a consumer is facing, like looking for a job," Bowers added.

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