Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The evolution of spam

The economist had an excellent piece about spam and online fraud last month.  Key points:-

  • Spam email has massively reduced in the last 5 years.  Research in 2008 showed only 28 “sales” on 350m e-mail messages sent, a conversion rate under .00001%
  • It's now more about making you click, to download malware, than making you buy whatever's on offer.
In the face of these diminishing returns on spam email, spammers are now targeting social apps: 
Twitter ... estimates that only 1% of its traffic is spam. But researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana show that 8% of links published were shady, with most of them leading to scams and the rest to Trojans. Links in Twitter messages, they found, are over 20 times more likely to get clicked than those in e-mail spam.
  • In Facebook, BitDefender set up some fake profiles to research ease of spamming:-
  • They got up to 100 new friends a day
  • When they invited people with at least 1 mutual friend, they got 50% hit-rate of new friends
  • Overall, they got 25% of their new friends to click on malware links.
  • The koobface trojan, spreading via social networks since May 2008 has profits estimated at $2m, and it's still out there...
So, caveat clicker, and be careful who you befriend!
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