Spam 'research project' run by spammers?

Antivirus firm Sophos suspects that spammers have, under the guise of a 'sociological research project', been harvesting e-mail addresses for future campaigns.Sophos warned on Friday than an e-mail campaign asking recipients to forward all their chain mail e-mail claims to a researcher called Gemma, is actually a scam most likely set up by spammers to harvest live e-mail addresses.

Antivirus firm Sophos suspects that spammers have, under the guise of a 'sociological research project', been harvesting e-mail addresses for future campaigns.

Sophos warned on Friday than an e-mail campaign asking recipients to forward all their chain mail e-mail claims to a researcher called Gemma, is actually a scam most likely set up by spammers to harvest live e-mail addresses.

The e-mail contains the following text:

I would be very grateful if you would be kind enough to forward absolutely anything and everything that remotely resembles chain mail, forwards of any type (even the rude ones). This project is based over the next year and I need at least 500,000 forwards for this project to be a success, so please keep them coming the more the better.


Paul Ducklin, head of technology in Asia Pacific for Sophos, told ZDNet Australia that users should not respond.

"What they are getting is this high quality live e-mail database and you are trusting that they are going to use it for sociological research, which they are almost certainly not. It would be a bad idea to assume they were," said Ducklin.

Ducklin admitted that he was not completely sure that the campaign is being run with malicious intent but he said even if it were, this is not the right way to go about it.

"The e-mail text has been badly edited. People -- if they think they are helping a student -- maybe more inclined to help out but they are actually dobbing in the e-mail addresses of all their chums.

"Even if it were some kind of university student for a project they are going about collecting the information in a pretty unacceptable way," he added.