Spyware littering the global spam landscape

Outside of the usual financial scams, medical miracles and pornography that makes up the bulk of unsolicited e-mail, a new trend has emerged where spammers are spruiking spyware to monitor partners, children and employees.

The product allows users to spy on anyone by simply sending an e-greeting card. For example, a wife can send a harmless e-greeting to her husband and once it is opened she can monitor all of his e-mails, chatroom messages and passwords.

The spyware spam is certainly spreading according to this month's Spam Index from Clearswift, an e-mail management software provider with 16 million users worldwide.

Clearswift Asia Pacific managing director Chy Chuawiwat said spyware is particularly nasty because the e-mail or greeting usually comes from a trusted source.

"The spam is encouraging people to spy on people they know, by tricking them into opening an attachment. This is a real threat to the personal privacy of individuals and particularly to the security of information in organisations," he said.

"Organisations need a multi-layered approach to spam filtering. At the network layer, organisations should use real time blacklists, anti-relay, domain verification and local block lists. Then at the content layer, organisations should apply textual analysis of content and deploy service feeds that provide regular updates on new spam content patterns. Additionally, organisations should apply policy-based spam filtering based on sender and recipient groups."

Direct product selling including the new spyware offers made up 23 per cent of spam intercepted in September according to the Spam Index.

This was closely followed by pornography and finance deals both at 22 per cent.

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