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05 September 2008, 12:06

Spammers abusing Google Picasa

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Spammers are misusing Google's services to deceive spam filters and draw users to their advertising pages. MessageLabs says that in recent months it has noticed an increasing number of emails with links to Picasa web albums which use Flash films to redirect visitors to spammer pages. Users can store their own images – and apparently Flash applets as well – at Picasa, free of charge.

The Intelligence Report says that, with emails containing embedded links to Google, the usual spam filters have a hard time trying to discriminate between the legitimate and the malicious. These are after all legitimate URLs, so blocking emails containing Google URLs would probably do more harm than good.

ImageShack is also reported to be among the misused service providers. Although MessageLabs recorded less than two per cent of the total amount of spam in August as arriving by this route, it is nonetheless convinced that these distribution channels will become markedly more significant in coming months.

Like the ShadowServer Foundation, MessageLabs was able to spot an extension in the spread of botnets. The Srizbi and Cutwail botnets each grew by 20 to 25 per cent between July and August, taking the increase in spam worldwide in August close to 160 per cent compared to July. MessageLabs is also warning against "Antivirus XP 2008", a rogue program that poses as anti-spyware software and now represents a serious threat to companies. Once installed, it terrorizes its users with false warnings of infections, trying to persuade them to buy the full version of the program.

MessageLabs says that, in August, France suffered the most from junk advertising. The spam quota there rose 3.5 per cent to 82.8 per cent, putting the French on the top of the list of the world's most heavily spammed countries. The largest jump in the spam load – 13.9 percentage points – was recorded in Italy, where the total was 71.3 per cent.

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