Most Popular Spam Topics: Pharmaceuticals and Dating

By Carlton Purvis

In the United States, 73.8 percent of email traffic was spam—mass-mailed, unsolicited, messages used for advertising or to distribute viruses and malware, according to Symantec’s monthly intelligence report. One in 1.35 emails is spam, according to the report. It also says the global rate ratio of spam in email traffic remained relatively unchanged from September to October. Symantec collects data on spam from more than eight billion emails processed at 15 data centers to get a clear picture of most current tactics being used by hackers and spammers. 

One of the ways Symantec monitors the threat landscape is by watching spam email subject lines. "We definitely see a 'top' spam trend on the spam subject line list because the appearance on the list indicates high-volume spam," said a Symantec spokesperson.

"For subject lines, spammers are doing everything in their power to make the recipient click and open the message. If the recipient looks at the inbox and immediately deletes the message because the subject line is 'Click here to buy fake watches,' then there is no return on investment. But, if the subject line is something interesting, then it’s more likely for the message to be opened by the recipient," he said.

The past month was dominated by malware spam using subject lines made to trick users into thinking they needed to take some kind of action. Many spam subject lines imitate emails coming from trusted senders like friends, payroll offices, or delivery services. The emails usually include malicious links that allow spammers to steal information or add a PC to an existing botnet.

In October the top five subject lines were “NACHA security nitification [sic]”, “ACH Payroll Cancelled”, “ACH Transfer Review”, “Re: Back to School Software Sale”, and “Facebook Administration has sent you a notification.”

In September, the top five spam subject lines were “UPS Notification”, “Uniform Traffic Ticket”, “You have notifications pending”, “SALE OFF: Pharmacy store!”, and a blank subject line.

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