Image spam is down, while spam remains: Symantec report

The once ubiquitous image spam has fallen significantly in recent months, while overall spam levels remain steady, according to Symantec’s study, “The State of Spam: A Monthly Report July 2007,” which covers the month of June.

According to the report, image spam continued to decline to an average of 14.5 percent in June, down from 27 percent and 37 percent in the months of April and March respectively. At its peak in January 2007, Symantec estimated that image spam accounted for nearly 52 percent of all spam.

“As anti-spam filters are detecting more image spam, spammers are moving to different tactics,” said Doug Bowers, senior director of anti-spam engineering at Symantec. “It is certainly nothing new to see a technique get popular and then change because more spam filters are blocking it.”

Overall spam levels remained consistent in June averaging about 65 percent of all e-mail. With the recent decline in image spam, Symantec has observed an increase in new spam techniques that reference spam images in different ways.

Scams and fraud spam combined continues to rise from 9 percent in March to 14 percent in June. The popular image spam content for financial “pump and dump” scams have been reformatted to text and URL linked content. In addition, this month’s report saw an increase in a new PDF image spam, in which an image is attached in a PDF to a fraudulent e-mail.

Other popular scams included “Free money anyone?” and Iraq War inspired spam. Recent holidays that drew spam, such as Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Fourth of July, were tracked in the report.

“Spammers are motivated by money and the profit motive,” Bowers said. “The specific tactics they choose will be determined by how they can make money. The specific tactics they choose change based on results.”

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