Spammers leverage interest in Olympics

Security experts expect a flood of spam prompting users to click on links to view videos or photographs of sports events at the Beijing Olympics

Public interest in the Olympic Games is helping spammers, who are using text related to the games in e-mails to get users to click through to their malware and phishing Web sites, or to go to product sites, according to an executive at Symantec.

Spam messages were 78 percent of all messages in July, up from 66 percent a year ago, according to a monthly report on spam released by Symantec earlier this week.

While spam is increasing overall as a trend, there has been a spike ahead of the Beijing Olympics, said Shantanu Ghosh, vice president of Symantec's India product operations, on Thursday. Symantec's center in Pune, India, has one of nine security response labs run by Symantec worldwide.

[ For news about IT at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, check out InfoWorld's special report. ]

"The objective of spammers is to make you curious enough to look, and they always pick up on topical events," Ghosh said. A favorite with spammers this season is to tempt users with tickets to the Olympic Games, he added.

After the Beijing Olympics start on Friday, there is likely to be a flood of spam prompting users to click on links to view videos or photographs of sports events at the Olympics, Ghosh warned. The links may take users to phishing sites or sites dispensing malware, he added.

Spammers have been taking advantage of public interest in the run-up to the U.S. elections and other issues, Symantec said.

E-mail offering or advertising Internet or computer-related goods and services, accounted for 22 percent of spam in July, followed by e-mails promoting general goods and services, at 21 percent. The share of scams to lure people into investing in fraudulent schemes was 8 percent, while phishing messages used to trick users into revealing personal information such as e-mail address, financial information, and passwords accounted for 5 percent, according to Symantec.

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