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News

Spam levels rise with latest PDF based pump and dump scam

Sophos : 08 August, 2007  (Technical Article)
PDF based spam campaign to inflate penny-share prices results in surge in spam levels
IT security and control firm Sophos is warning of a major new spam campaign designed to manipulate the share price of a company which sells wireless products to young people. Sophos reports that the scale of the spam campaign is such that it has led to a 30 percent increase in the amount of spam seen by its global traps during the last 24 hours.

The spam messages are being sent to internet users worldwide with an attached PDF file that urges them to buy shares in a company called Prime Time Group Inc. Investors may not be aware the spammers have already purchased stock at a cheap price, and are now trying to artificially inflate its price by encouraging others to purchase more. The spammers plan to then sell off their stock at a profit, which may cause the price to plummet.

Sophos experts note that since the rise in spam levels, Prime Time Group Inc. share prices have risen by 60 percent.

The massive spike in spam was first witnessed at Sophos's spamtraps in Germany at 16:40 BST on Tuesday 7 August, but was quickly seen arriving at other monitoring stations around the world. The email messages are being sent from compromised home PCs, turned into zombies by hackers.

'The scale of this stock pump-and-dump spam campaign is like nothing we've seen before, and it looks as though it is working for the cybercriminals behind it. The share price in this company has rocketed as a result of bogus news being blasted to internet users worldwide,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. 'In an attempt to get past anti-spam products, criminals are now regularly using PDF files to carry their slick enticements for potential investors. Although a solid anti-spam defence can protect against this menace, there are plenty of people who still haven't defended their email gateways and are being fooled into making an unwise investment.'

According to Sophos, pump-and-dump stock campaigns currently accounts for approximately 25 percent of the world's spam. Earlier this year, Sophos reported how the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had suspended trading in 35 companies as they were found to be commonly referenced in pump-and-dump stock email campaigns.


Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend against the threats of spam, hackers, spyware and viruses.
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