Cellopoint 2008 First Quarter Email Security Report

Cellopoint Lab recently announced its e-mail security report for the first quarter of this year. The main spamming method used during this quarter consisted of social engineering, which has replaced the conventional spam of the past. Nowadays hackers use zombie networks to send e-mail that doesn’t advertise products, but instead displays movie stars and political figures, or even current events. For instance, photos of Edison Chen were common on spam last month. Such topics as Taiwan's presidential election, the US elections, and even China's heavy snows last winter have been used. In addition, there has been a surge in e-mail involving Chinese stock tips or trolling for MSN account numbers and passwords. The goal of all these schemes is to induce the recipient to click on the mail, which will trigger the installation of a hostile Trojan horse program and make the victim's computer part of a zombie network, while also stealing sensitive personal data.

The following is a summary of the report:

  1. News, current events:
  2. Spam featuring the US presidential elections, the Edison Chen incident, and China's blizzards were most successful this quarter; these spam topics all took advantage of the recipients' curiosity to induce them to open the mail.

  3. Messages attempting to steal MSN account numbers try to trick recipients into believing that they can query the sender's status and see whether they have been blacklisted if they enter their account number and password. The hackers will have achieved their goal as soon as the user inputs his or her account number and password.

  4. There has recently been a great increase in tax refund e-mail. Now that the tax filing season has arrived, hackers like to use tax refund notices as their topics, and simulate messages from tax agencies. These e-mails trick recipients into entering their bank account numbers and passwords, or ask users to perform transfers at an ATM.

  5. Hostile manipulation of Google search results: Hackers may put links to Google search results in e-mails in an effort to induce users to visit phishing web sites.

  6. Chinese stock tips: Chinese stock tip e-mails have appeared in the wake of English-language stock tip messages. These messages take advantage of people's greed by manipulating stock prices.

According to the Cellopoint Global Anti-spam Center (CGAC), apart from asking employees not to blindly open e-mail of questionable origin and regularly updating system patches, the best way for companies to fight this problem is by improving their corporate network security grade. Mail security equipment should be installed at the mail server end to create a firewall blocking all kinds of e-mail threats at the point of entry. This approach is much more effective than taking later remedial actions, and can enhance management efficiency by conserving the time of IT management personnel. Cellopoint's e-mail security platform is an integrated firewall blocking a wide range of e-mail threats, and is paired with content checking and mail filing and backup program.