Effect Measure

Swine flu contaminated with spam

If you’ve ever wondered how spammers got your email address, the answer might be that you gave it to them by following a link you thought had important or interesting information. We all know the kind of “interesting” information people will follow. Sex is the biggest business on the internet. But spammers have also learned that breaking news events can also be a lure, especially if there is public anxiety and uncertainty. About things like swine flu:

About five per cent of global spam volume mentions ‘swine flu’ to trick people into opening the e-mail message, say security experts.

As the swine flu outbreak reaches pandemic levels, cyber criminals use the flu scare as bait to scam internet users globally. According to security company McAfee Avert Labs, this could amount to billions of messages each day. (Business24-7)

McAfee has some typical swine flu spam email subject lines:

  • First US swine flu victims!
  • US swine flu statistics
  • Salma Hayek caught swine flu!
  • Swine flu worldwide!
  • Swine flu in Hollywood!
  • Swine flu in USA
  • Madonna caught swine flu!

That’s just a small inoculum. Swine flu spam comes in many different strains and subtypes. There is the antiviral and quack cure spam that takes you to a phony pill vendor, the natural remedy quack or an unrelated site whose only function is to be there to harvest your email address, credit card number (if you are dumb enough to provide it) or install some nasty virus (computer version) or Trojan horse malware. We’ve had a number of instances of that type appear as comment spam on the blog. We clean it out as soon as we see it. McAfee also reports domain name registrations mentioning the word “swine” are up 30 fold (although I imagine pre-outbreak, swine was not a popular name, so 30 times a smallish number may still be relatively small).

Just a reminder to also practice good computer hygiene during a real pandemic. Just as most human viral diseases came originally from animals, and there seem to be a fair number of reptiles with their own keyboards out there.

Comments

  1. #1 The Doctor
    May 5, 2009

    Good to hear from you today Revere even in such a banal context.

    Your reticence of late speaks volumes as does you post tonight.

    Keep the faith brothers. We are with you.

  2. #2 o.jeff
    May 5, 2009

    The speed of this pandemic was shocking and horrifying. If the virus had just a few mutations, we’d be in the catastrophe of the century.

    If anyone doubts the importance of advanced preparation and investment in our public health infrastructure after what we have just witnessed, they have some screws loose.

    By spending only a tiny fraction of the bank bailouts, we could go a long way toward positioning us much better for the inevitable deadly pandemic. I’d much rather see a few banks go bankrupt than see 10% of the population die.

  3. #3 Julie, RN
    May 5, 2009

    Joking question: Is there a spam version of cytokine storm?

    Standard rule: When in doubt about a site or email, DON’T click.

  4. #4 thetrystero
    May 6, 2009

    pun intended?

  5. #5 unicow
    May 6, 2009

    McAfee also reports domain name registrations mentioning the word “swine” are up 30 fold (although I imagine pre-outbreak, swine was not a popular name, so 30 times a smallish number may still be relatively small).

    Sadly, it’s not very small.

    F-Secure has a list of domains containing “swine flu” that were registered just over the last weekend.

    There are 1,344 domains on the list.

  6. #6 Jon Schultz
    May 7, 2009

    Spam is one thing, but why should anyone be criticized for registering a domain name?

    Seems to me there’s an epidemic in this country of the desire to criticize others of greed.

    It’s a nasty disease.