April Brings Spam And Virus Deluge

"We're seeing new types of erratic behavior that are leading us to believe that the profile of spam is changing," said Charles McColgan, chief technology officer for FrontBridge, in a statement. "Our research is starting to show new types of message strains that frequently change their content, limiting the effectiveness of more primitive filters. Our advanced content- and context-analysis techniques have stopped the bulk of these new types of threats."

While such reports from anti-spam companies should always be viewed with the level of skepticism accorded to an umbrella salesman predicting rain, the severity of the Sober.P worm outbreak that began Monday lends credence to FrontBridge's alarmism.

But E-mail users aren't a particularly skeptical lot, which is one of the reasons spam and malware continue to vex the Internet community. In an E-mail to the press, Steven Sundermeier, an analyst with anti-virus company Central Command, observed that virus writers still rely primarily on social engineering techniques, such as provocative subject lines, to dupe users into opening infected messages.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for anti-virus company Sophos plc, noted in a recent post on the company's Web site that spammers had turned to humor to get recipients to look at their pitches. "Even though good anti-spam software will typically mark messages like this with a high spam score, some users may deliberately retrieve it and read it if they know a joke is contained inside," he said.

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Though armed with steadily improving technology and stronger laws in the battle against malware, users continue to shoot themselves in the foot due to lack of education. As Sundermeier puts it, "Practicing safe computing is critical in the fight against computer viruses."