Symantec warns of spike in job-related spam

Spammers are exploiting the economic downturn by sending out emails to job hunters that purport to be from employment agencies

Riding the coat-tails of the worsening global economy, spammers are using various job and finance-related guises in hopes of exploiting users hunting for jobs.

According to Symantec's March spam report, spammers are sending out email messages posing as job agencies, with the aim being of harvesting personal information from job seekers who have responded. Some are posing as government agencies promising news of economic stimulus grants as well, said the report.

Some of the emails containing malware have disguised the malicious attachments as job applications. When opened, the file triggers the Hacktool.Spammer virus, which exposes the user to a flood of spam.

Symantec advised users to pay close attention to file types, especially executable files.

With the economic downturn spreading globally, spam beating the recession drum has also been noticed in a variety of languages from English to Chinese, noted the report.

Late last year, Sophos reported a surge in spam carrying US president-elect Barack Obama as a theme, moments after his acceptance speech.

Crimeware explodes
In a separate advisory, the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) said on Friday that the number of websites spreading crimeware reached an all-time high of 31,173 sites as at December 2008, representing an eightfold increase from January that year.

The APWG said the number of such sites "exploded at year's end", and attributed this to cybercriminals "investing deeply in automated systems to steal personal and enterprise data".

Furthermore, fake anti-malware programs have doubled in number, it said.

This is not a new tactic, according to Panda Labs' technical director, Luis Corrons. He said in the advisory: "Rogue anti-malware applications are not something new. They have been around for a few years, but it was not until mid-2008 when cybercriminals realized that this form of attack was a great way to obtain fresh money from users."

The report also noted that the number of phishing attacks against payment services increased more than 34 percent toward the end of last year.

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