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Spam and online scams associated with the 2010 World Cup.

24 June 2010 - 13:20 by Graham Miller

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Cybercriminals are continuing to target thousands of innocent consumers shopping online by integrating phony deals related to the 2010 World Cup, according to security firm Symantec.

Those who run spam campaigns have been particularly devious in their attempts to dupe shoppers with emails either directly relating to the World Cup, or cleverly written messages which suggest football related topics whilst containing entirely different content in order to circumvent spam filters. This can make safe shopping online difficult for the unwary.

Various security experts have been urging consumers to take care throughout the tournament, as it is seen as ripe for exploitation by malicious organisations and individuals.

Symantec has observed a steep rise in the number of spam messages sent out by illicit online pharmaceutical vendors which are able to tempt users into opening them because the subject line mentions some aspect of the World Cup.

Criminals frequently recycle spam campaigns which have identical content to those that have gone before, but in order to stay current, they simply alter the subject of the messages to something that is currently newsworthy and of interest to the public, according to Symantec's report.

Much of the spam process, including the gathering of relevant headlines, is entirely automated using software that skims internet news feeds and then harvests the most popular headlines to paste into subject lines, so high volumes of messages can be generated and mailed in a short period of time.

Last month the World Cup caused a shift in spamming trends, but the total volume of spam email sent actually dropped by nearly one per cent. UK customers were assaulted with high spam levels as always, with 88 per cent of all messages originating from spamming sources, although safe shopping online was made most difficult for Hungarians, where 94 per cent of May's emails were spam.