Porn spam on the rise

Tricks and countermeasures


Updated UK corporates are bombarded by porn and pedo bulk-emails - and ineffective anti-spam software and outdated email usage policies mean that many are coping badly

That's the warning from messaging firm Nexor which reckons pornographic emails are on the rise and that many are passing through ineffective defences to reach workers' desktops. It reckons pornographic email is growing at a minimum of 20 per cent per annum, and possibly more, because of under-reporting of the problem.

Not everyone agrees with this assessment, however.

Specialist spam filtering firm Brightmail reckons that porn spam is on the rise, but only because spam itself is still increasing. Proportionally speaking porn is responsible for approximately 8 per cent of spam - a figure that's stayed constant for the past two months, it reckons

So should companies care about their employees receiving Spam? The answer would appear to be an emphatic yes.

As well as wasting time dealing with offensive messages, employees who respond to such emails and download illegal content from their workplace could leave both themselves and their employers open to investigation, Nexor warns.

Standard methods for spam control rely on key word searching and referral to real time black hole lists which compile lists of known spammers. Spammers are aware of these methods and are developing ways to beat them, according to Nexor, which says porn spam is notoriously hard to intercept. The company sells technology, called Nexor Interceptor, which identifies the content of emails based upon the natural language concepts contained within them, and not keywords.

Its more sophisticated pattern matching and neural network technology does a better job in blocking spam - particularly unsolicited messages containing pornographic content, Nexor reckons.

Rival firm Brightmail (which uses grouping algorithms, pattern matching and decoy email boxes is its server-side filtering products) maintain that its technology gives the best results.

Whatever the truth of these rival marketing claims a recent article by Associated Press provides evidence that spam control methods in general and organisations such as Spamhaus.org are making life increasingly difficult for bulk emailers.

AP interviewed a number of notorious bulk emailers for the article, including Bernard Balan, 51, of Ontario, Canada, who told the news agency he has gone through "unbelievable hardships" to keep the spam flowing from his one-stop-financial.com operation.

"My operating costs have gone up 1,000 percent this year, just so I can figure out how to get around all these filters," he told the news agency.

Steve Linford, director of the London-based Spamhaus Project, which tracks the Internet's worst spammers and provides blacklists of their IP addresses, reckons specialist software is only part of the solution.

Ninety per cent of spam emails come from 100-150 known spammers, he says, so organisations configuring their mail server to query the Spamhaus Block List, a real time DNS-based database of IP addresses of verified spammers, can block a huge amount of email from junk senders. Referring to Spamhaus' list allows email to be blocked without having to look at its content - saving processor time, he said.

Nexor and McAfee anti-spam products can block email from open proxies, unlike Spamhaus' free services which does not, so Linford reckons firms would achieve the best results from a combination of the two technologies.

Stream of depravity

Technology differences aside, Linford supports Naxor's view that the flood of pornographic emails is on the rise. Many spam messages now often come with photographs attached or containing Javascript which, if opened, causes browsers to open onto pornographic Web sites, he told us.

Many spammers come from a background in the porn industry, so although they might deny it, Spamhaus reckons more than 50 per cent of the worst spammers are sending out pornographic messages.

Pornographic emails bordering on paedophilia are becoming more commonplace, Linford told us, though these most often come from a different group of individuals operating pedo Web sites.

The disturbing popularity of such Web sites was highlighted last weekend when it emerged that the FBI had trapped more than 7,000 British paedophiles in a sting operation.

UK police have been given the names and addresses of 7,272 individuals who used credit cards to pay for indecent pictures of under age children on Web sites seized by the FBI last year, The Telegraph reports. ®


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