Messages changed to local language on the fly
Spammers have turned to using online translation services to easily develop multi language spam runs according to latest research, which for the first time has found suggestions of automated language translation tools being used in significant volumes.When Symantec produced its MessageLabs Intelligence Report for July it revealed that with spam levels globally remaining at a two-year high of approximately 90%, local language spam now accounts for a high proportion of the traffic, running at levels of 46% of spam in Germany and 53% in France. In The Netherlands, 25% of spam is in Dutch. In Japan 62.3% is in non-English languages and in China this number is 54.7%.Paul Wood of MessageLabs told us, “We’ve seen spam levels increase steadily in different European countries over the past few months and we have been trying to find why that is. Increased use of botnets is driving the traffic we know, but there’s a lot more spam being detected in local languages. To native speakers though, the translations are poor, so it appears to be machine generated. There are plenty of free web tools, and with the use of message templates we believe it is possible that this is the source of large volumes of messages.”Seemingly, spammers are now using templates to engineer message translation ‘on-the-fly’. “As spam messages are being composed, they are able to change company names, domain names and other references as part of the automation process. The language for translation is suspected to be chosen based on the top-level country domain from the email address of the recipient; for example, an address ending in .fr may be translated into French, and .de into German” MessageLabs summarised in its report.Consequently, Germany overtook France as the most spammed country with levels rising to 97.5% the message security company has found.Wood explained that there was still much to be understood about how the spammers were automating machine translation in such high volumes, but is could possibly mimic the way image spammers use templates to mass generate those types of message.For some service providers, the move to more local language spam could through up issues, in that most anti-spam scanning services are designed for the English language and there are some that are less capable at detecting spam in double byte character languages such as Korean and other Asian languages.Other findings show that web-based malware writers appear to have taken a break with less than 1% of web malware in July classified as new. However, with the number of new websites harboring malware and other potentially unwanted programs identified each day reaching a nine month high of 3,618, MessageLabs said this indicates that previously used malware is being more widely distributed to other websites.”In July 2009, the global ratio of spam in email traffic was down by 1% from the previous month at 89.4% or one in every 1.12 emails. Since the death of Michael Jackson on 25 June, approximately 1% of all spam referenced the singer.Phishing attacks fell very slightly although MessageLabs Intelligence noted an increase in phishing attacks being distributed in languages other than English.