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From the Early Lark to the Tardy Owl, Spammers Intend Catering to All This Christmas

Created: 16 Dec 2013 09:07:53 GMT • Updated: 23 Jan 2014 18:02:24 GMT • Translations available: 日本語
Christopher Mendes's picture
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Contributor: Binny Kuriakose

‘Hello world’ we are digital! Well that was ages ago. Today the need for speed has made us extra fast. A click of a button and the desired webpage is up and running in an instant. In fact, organizations are switching to the Web because of cost effective business and global presence the Internet provides. This phenomenon has made predators smack their lips. What better environment to make a kill than Christmas, with the unaware and the vulnerable abound!

With a systematic study of business done during Christmas, spammers have leveraged a plethora of categories since early July, ranging from hospitality-related spam for those who plan early on how to celebrate Christmas later in the year, to last minute shoppers who scramble to buy gifts before rushing home. Now, that is a well-planned spread.

  • For the vacation planner, there is a hospitality-related spam, with headers reading:

From: Christmas Luxury <[name]@[domain].com>
Subject: A journey of Christmas luxuries

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Figure 1. A preview of hospitality spam

  • For the one in need of cash, there is the odd Nigerian type lottory promotion. The email header reads:

Subject: XMAS PROMOTION!!
From: "[Brand name] JACKPOT COMPANY INC." <[name]@[domain].com>

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Figure 2. A preview of a Nigerian-type spam

  • For those intending to gift something memorable, there are blocks, chocolates and ornaments to gift. The emails have the following headers:

From: "[Brand name] giving an oil painting" <[name]@[domain].com>
From: Christmas Luxury <mail@[domain].com>
From: Chocolates Inquiry <mail@[domain].com>
From: "Holiday Ornaments" <Holiday.Ornaments@[domain].com>
Subject: Exclusively Designed Christmas Ornaments
Subject: Delicious Christmas Chocolates !
Subject: ★ Attention Early Birds
Subject: A journey of Christmas luxuries
Subject: as a Christmas gift"[Brand name]

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Figure 3. A preview of personalized gifts spam

  • For the early birds who prefer to buy watches and designer products this Christmas, there are a range of replica products at throw away prices with the following email headers:

From: "Early x-mas shopping" <[name]@[domain].com>
Subject: [Brand name] Smart Phone Clearout. 55% off MSRP
Subject: Thinking about Christmas?
From: "[Brand name]" <[name]@[domain].com>
Subject: ★ Attention Early Birds
Subject: Great for Christmas
From: "Join us AT "[Brand name]" <[name]@[domain].com>
Subject: Christmas coming soon!! . Are you ready for the hot selling reason.
From: "[Brand name] <[name]@[domain].com>

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Figure 4. A preview of a replica spam

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Figure 5. A preview of product spam

  • For those who intend to get in shape for Christmas, there are weight-loss related spam that claim to get you thinner instantly! The headers have the typical enticements as shown below:

Subject: BY Christmas Drop 23lbs
Subject: Look 23lbs thinner Christmas
Subject: Did you see me on television Thursday?
From: "[Brand name]" <[name]@[domain].com>

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Figure 6. A preview of medicine-related spam

  • For the young at heart, there is dating spam with the following headers:

From: "Date Someone" <[name]@[domain].com>
From: "Senior Dating" <[name]@[domain].com>
Subject: Find a hot Christian this Christmas in your area
Subject: Find a local love to cuddle with this Christmas

Figure7.png

Figure 7. A preview of dating spam

  • For your kids, there are personalized surveys with Santa’s greetings, specially crafted for your needs. The email header reads:

From: Santa <Santa@[domain].com>
Subject: Letters from Santa for your child

Figure8.png

Figure 8. A preview of personalized spam email for kids

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Figure 9. A pie chart depicting Christmas spam volume

Overall, the spam panorama this Christmas looks pervasive. The aim is to harness curiosity laced with fantastic offers that can exploit unhealthy user practices, unsecured systems and half-baked solutions. The focus of spammers continue to be on how to best understand and exploit human tendencies and then to entice users to either compromise sensitive information or visit a dubious webpage.

Symantec advises users to pay attention to details while judging the genuineness of the mail by considering the following:

  • Did you subscribe or unsubscribe to such offers in the past?
  • Is it one of those forwarded mails a friend has been ensnared into?
  • Is the sender, the context and content of the mail authentic?

We encourages users to be alert during this festive season while dealing with online offers through emails. Symantec has protection in place to stop malware and spam and advise users to regularly update antivirus signatures to stay protected from latest threats. Protect yourself and limit the amount of your personal information on the public domain.

Symantec wishes you a safe and merry Christmas.