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Spam revival threatens online shoppers

17 January 2011 - 17:33 by David Aiken

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Consumers in the UK were treated to a relatively quiet Christmas period on the spam email front with many campaigns tailing off and leaving inboxes pleasantly fraud free. However, the latest figures show that in early 2011, the international spam publishers have revamped their efforts to compromise consumer security and dupe those looking to carry out safe shopping online.

Data published by security giant Symantec shows that from the 9th of January one of the world's largest botnets, which operates out of Russia and uses thousands of infected PCs to send billions of spam emails, returned to the fray after several months of unprecedented decline.

In the middle of 2010, around 200 billion spam emails were sent every 24 hours, but this decreased by three quarters in the festive period. Now fraudsters are back up to their old high-volume tricks with the Russian botnet proving problematic for consumers across the globe who seek safe shopping online.

Spam levels jumped by 98 per cent in a single day and the global total was quickly up by 90 per cent. Symantec believes that the cybercriminals operating the Russian botnet saw a dip in business when authorities shut down one of its clients, but a host of new shysters seeking its services have clearly emerged in 2011.

Security expert, Graham Cluley, told the Telegraph that spammers who have control over infected PCs are now trying to move away from running pure email campaigns and instead focusing on bringing popups to those who have inadvertently downloaded malware, harnessing their backdoor access to spread damaging advertisements and cause aggravation.

The links embedded in these adds take unwitting users to sites which claim to be able to remove spam for a fee, which causes many to part with their cash and never see any of the promised benefits, according to Mr Cluley.