Spammers target tech-savvy Web users

Technologically adept computer users are being targeted by spammers trying to sell them suspect pharmaceutical products, according to MessageLabs
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

People who discuss technology on bulletin boards and leave their contact details there are being increasingly singled out by those who send spam, according to security vendor MessageLabs.

MessageLabs identified the trend, which it dubbed "Geek spam", in its Intelligence Report for September. It warned that spammers often use threads and conversations from those bulletin board conversations to try to fool spam filters.

This technique is combined with a heavy use of technological keywords often in white text on a white background. This can help the unsolicited messages to slip past anti-spam applications such as Bayesian filters, the email filtering vendor said.

"Spammers have found they can bypass freebie Bayesian filters by including key words that technological individuals would be happy to receive," said Paul Wood, senior analyst with MessageLabs.

By using technical terms, the spammer makes it harder for the victim to block them.

"One minute you want to keep certain words, one minute you don't want to keep them. Over time, the filter becomes less accurate," said Wood.

The spammers will often also send image spam, which is difficult to filter as it is pixellated.

Spammers have traditionally sent their wares indiscriminately to masses of people at once, often by buying CDs containing millions of email addresses. According to MessageLabs, spam is now becoming targeted.

In most cases the spam is direct marketing for suspect pharmaceutical products, said Wood.

"It's mostly ads for penis enlargement and Viagra. There's a stereotype out there that geeks spend all their time alone with computers, or find it difficult to perform. It's difficult to say whether the spammers are pandering to those stereotypes," said Wood.

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