Spammers Feasting on the East

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sudha Nagaraj

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In India, Diwali or the ‘Festival of Lights’ is round the corner. As the D-day draws closer, Indians are flocking to malls and travel operators to shop and make reservations for the up-coming holidays. At this juncture, Symantec has released an advisory warning users against emails that offer discounts, holiday deals and other enticing subject lines which feature the word Diwali.

In its October State of Spam report, Symantec has documented a diversification in holiday spam campaign. From the hitherto Western-oriented Christmas and Halloween dominated strings of unsolicited emails, spammers have turned international embracing the Indian Diwali (Deepa-vali –meaning series of lamps) to be celebrated on October 17 as well as the Chinese Moon Festival that has gone by.

Among the spam doing the rounds in India is one which offers a database CD of 57,000 Indian SME companies. The subject line says: Diwali Offer for Databases in India.  For those who are not in the know, Diwali season is also the season of gifts –with corporate gifting a mini-industry of sorts alive and kicking. Any unsuspecting gift or memento-maker would be a sitting duck!

Similarly, Diwali is also a time for several rounds of the card game that continues well into the night. Another spam offers online card games and prizes. Some spam mails have Indian names as senders and request personal information including email ID and phone numbers. Spam mails that redirect users to websites of tour operators are also floating around.

Likewise in China, spammers sent out spurious emails that offered branded and customized mooncakes, Chinese tea as well as good wishes on the occasion of the Mid-Autumn festival that was celebrated earlier this month on October 3 (August 15 in Chinese lunar calendar).

So people celebrating festivals in this part of the world need to follow Symantec’s advice:

·         Be choosy about web sites where you register your email address.

·         Avoid publishing your email address on the Internet. If you have to, try using a separate address when signing up for mailing lists; get multiple addresses for multiple purposes.

·         Delete all spam

·         Do not click on suspicious links in emails as they may be links to spoofed websites.

·         Do not open unknown email attachments.

·         Do not reply to spam.

·         Do not fill out forms in messages that ask for personal or financial information or passwords.

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