Spammers still mining Japan, NZ earthquake appeals: Symantec

Expert warns enterprises to stay vigilant

The charitable nature of Australians has been under threat, as spammers continue to hijack Japan and New Zealand disaster relief funds.

According to the latest global State of Spam and Phishing report from Symantec, phishers have been trying to take advantage of relief efforts by deploying websites which resemble the Red Cross sites.

Symantec’s security technology and response senior vice president, Stephen Trilling, said in a statement that spammers were sending out emails related to the Japanese earthquake with the logo of the Red Cross and asked people to provide credit or debit card details in order to donate.

Closer to home, Trilling said fraudsters had been trying the same tactic to take advantage of relief efforts in Christchurch, New Zealand by sending spam emails containing a link to a fake Red Cross NZ website and requesting details from end users. To make the donation, users were required to enter certain confidential information.

This information included an email address, postal address, credit card number, three-digit security number, card expiration date, four-digit PIN code, driver's licence number, and date of birth. Upon entering the required information, the Web page redirected victims to the legitimate Red Cross website. However, the phishing site was hosted on servers based in Wien, Austria.

Users also had to select the cause for which the donation would be made. These included New Zealand earthquake 2011, annual appeal 2011, Australian floods fund, landmine appeal, pacific disaster preparedness fund, and general fund appeal.

Trilling advised people not to open unknown email attachments or fill out forms in messages that ask for personal or financial information.

"A reputable company is unlikely to ask for your personal details via email," he said. "When in doubt, contact the company in question via an independent, trusted mechanism, such as a verified telephone number, or a known internet address that you type into a new browser window,"

The report also highlighted that spam levels fell after a large network of hacked computers called Rustock was shut down on 16 March. After increasing 8.7 per cent last month, the average daily spam volume fell 27.43 per cent in March.

This drop in overall volume was paired with overall spam percentage, which made up 74 per cent of all email messages worldwide in March, compared with 80 per cent in February.

According to the vendor, the overall phishing landscape decreased by 22 per cent in April with automated toolkit and unique domains decreased as compared to the previous month. Phishing websites created by automated toolkits decreased by about 41 per cent.

Web hosting services comprised 13 per cent of all phishing, a decrease of 22.31 per cent from March.

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags phishingscamsSpammerscharityNZ earthquakeJapan earthquakeJapan tsunami

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