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Spammers To Target Job-Hunting, Networking Sites in 2009

A new report from security consultancy AppRiver confirms what many of us have long expected: Spammers are becoming both savvier and sneakier. Spam efforts are increasingly focusing on deceiving users by masquerading as legitimate e-mail messages from well-known public entities.

According to AppRiver's new report, "State of Security 2008, and the Threat and Spamscape Forecast for 2009," spammers are increasingly exploiting current events -- such as the recent U.S. presidential election and volatility in the oil market -- or cooking up malware attacks purporting to originate from known (and ostensibly legitimate) organizations such as McDonald's or MSNBC.com.

Phishing attacks are on the rise, according to AppRiver, which says that attackers made phishing "one of the most frequently used attack methods" last year. Other attack types include phony subpoenas from governmental bodies -- especially the U.S. Tax Court or the IRS -- that are tied to keylogging schemes.

Spammers are also targeting the Web 2.0 world, in some cases posing as Google "AdWord" accounts to illegally obtain sensitive information.

This doesn't mean that classic attacks have fallen by the wayside, however. Spammers are still exploiting classic schemes (e.g., illegitimate e-mails purporting to originate from well-known entities such as banks) to harvest information. According to AppRiver senior security analyst Fred Touchette, the prevalence of Web-based malware will surge in 2009, with a rise in malware targeting virtualization solutions -- such as the Windows Virtual PC and VMware -- in a variety of different guises.

AppRiver and Touchette also anticipate a spike in mobile malware, thanks largely to the established popularity of the iPhone and the rising popularity of Google's new Android's open source mobile platform.

Finally, no spam and malware landscape survey would be complete without also taking into account an uptick in attacks linked to economic unrest. AppRiver anticipates that attacks on job search and social networking sites -- e.g., LinkedIn and Monster.com -- will increase significantly in 2009.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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