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Nowadays, the relationship between spam and other criminal activity on the Internet is getting closer and closer.

Spam? What is it?

"Spam" is unsolicited email sent in massive quantities simultaneously to numerous users, generally trying to advertise or publicize certain products or services. This junk mail is also often used as a bridgehead for other types of cyber-crime, such as phishing or email scams.

Spam can be classified into different groups, largely in accordance with the content of the messages:

  • Advertising spam. This is really the pioneer of all the other types. It involves advertising products or services, normally at knockdown prices. The advertising itself and the products advertised (fake designer products, pharmaceuticals, music, etc.) often infringe intellectual property rights, patents or health and safety legislation.
  • Hoaxes. These are simply false or trick messages. They are often ‘chain emails’, asking the recipient to forward the message to a certain number of contacts. They contain unlikely stories of social injustice or formulas to achieve success. The real aim of the hoax is to collect email addresses (accumulated as the message is forwarded) which are then used for other types of spam. Sending of these messages is not a crime in itself, as they have no apparent commercial aim, but the relation with cyber-crime is evident, and they are exploiting a legal loophole.
  • Fraudulent spam. As mentioned above, spam is also often used to launch phishing attacks, scams and other types of fraud through email messages sent massively to millions of users.

Who sends it?

In addition to companies advertising their own products, it is also sent by malware creators, who have entered into a new dynamic for sending spam.

  •  In the Commtouch's Spam Map you can see which are the most spam senders and most active servers.

    This new dynamic is the botnet, and involves infecting users’ systems with malware which then sends out spam from the compromised computers (zombies) without users realizing. Worms like ‘Spammer’ are typically employed in these scenarios.

    How does it reach users?

    Spam reaches computers by email, although initially, messages were in the form of text within the email, spammers have become more ingenious to avoid the filters put in place by increasingly effective antivirus programs. We are therefore witnessing a new technique, which involves sending spam through mp3, ppt, xls or zip files. The spam is actually in the message attachment, as is the case with spam in image files, where the URL being advertised is in the image rather than the text. The same applies to spam with PDF attachments.

    How can you protect yourself?

    It is very important to have an antivirus program that includes a spam filter installed and up-to-date. Any of Panda Security’s Antispam Solutions will keep your mailbox free from spam.

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