Symantec's State Of Spam Report: Mother's Day, Swine Flu And More

Mother's Day is May 10 and as expected, Symantec researchers, in their May State of Spam report, saw an abundance of spam taking advantage of this gift-giving holiday. The chart, included in the report, shows that Mother's Day spam spiked at the beginning of the month before experiencing a decline right before the holiday.

Mother's Day spamming messages are aligned with current malware trends that capitalize on holidays and major news events, which elicit high Web traffic, and subsequently generate potential targets for malware and fraud.

Holidays are a great time for spammers and Mother's Day is no exception. Why? Millions of users are looking for ways to spend money on flowers and other gifts for mom, resulting in a ready-made audience for spammers. And flowers around this day are usually a home run for spammers every time.

Some of the most popular subject lines for Mother's Day spam include:

If flowers don't do the trick, spammers are hoping to rake in victims with other gift offers, Symantec found. However, the victims who enter credit card information to purchase this merchandise will likely only get malware downloads and their identities stolen.

Some of the most popular product spam messages offer flowers, photo frames, jewelry, gift cards and kitchen-related products -- many times offered at some kind of discount, as seen in this image, found by Symantec researchers.

While eCards might be a great idea, especially for those too busy or forgetful to get Mom a real card, haste comes with a price. Usually the added bonus is malicious code that records keystrokes and steals information. Lovely.

One dead giveaway in this spam message, in case you didn't catch this, is that Mother's Day is not on May 11 -- it's on May 10. But as always, be wary or simply avoid unsolicited product spam, especially if it requests that you download an application or open a link. Symantec researchers advise users in their report to avoid opening e-mails with the subject line "Send Mom an eCard Today." When in doubt, go directly to an established eCard provider. Or just get Mom a real card for Mother's Day.

Not all spam this month focused on flowers and cute eCards for Mother's Day. Spammers gravitated toward President Barack Obama during the 2008 election campaign with ads linking his name to portable dewrinkle machine spam, medical product spam and get-rich-quick spam messages, among other things. And Obama is still a hot subject for spammers, especially in light of the recent press surrounding his first 100 days in office. Symantec researchers say that they saw a noticeable boost in the number of spam messages capitalizing on the president's name and popularity.

Some of the recent subjects include:

Swine flu updates have been making headlines around the globe. And true to form, spammers are some of the most ardent followers of the pandemic. An outbreak of spam followed very rapidly on the heels of the virus, and spammers were quick to capitalize on users' fears with information or cheap drugs to remedy the virus.

According to Symantec's spam report, many of the URLs lead to various fraudulent pharmaceutical sites, while others entice victims to download malicious PDFs purporting to answer questions about swine flu. Instead, the attachments drop information-stealing malware on users' systems.

Other examples of swine flu spam have included messages written in Spanish with links to a malicious video codec.

This message, discovered by Symantec researchers, appears to cover its bases by displaying a video that claims to provide information coupled with an offer for immune system drugs to stave off the infection. As always, researchers advise users to go to the Web sites of trusted news sources and organizations for information about the swine flu pandemic.