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Coming to an inbox near you: Spam with a personal touch

Submitted by on Friday, 19 December 2008 No Comment
It's a lonely, lonely world in my inbox.

My Nigerian buddies have given up on me, and I haven't seen a bank email in ages asking me, with or without typos, to confirm my account. No one's even inviting me to enlarge any part of my anatomy.

See how I cleverly avoid using certain words? I've learned what triggers comment spam in posts, and I bet the anatomical term I left out would launch an attack. That's also why I never write "b-e-a-t" in recipes.

The inbox situation could change soon, if estimates Cisco Systems Inc. released this week are right.

Cisco is able to monitor 30 percent of the world's email and Web traffic, according to a story post on International Business Times, and I'm really hoping I don't have an enemies working there.

The company uses that capability to produce an annual online security report, and the one released this week shows that the spam volume has doubled in the past year. Cisco also reports 90 percent growth in spam from legitimate domains, though use of virus by email attachment is declining, the company reports on its Web site.

The truly scary part: The company says spear phishing and social engineering will be the hot new spam trends. Basically, that means more bad guys will try to be trickier about tricking you.

Spear phishing takes traditional attempts to pry personal information from folks to a whole new level by faking group emails from someone who might have a real reason to ask for user names or passwords. Say, a human resources officer or IT person at work, to use the example Microsoft sites in an article telling you how to avoid being a victim.

Or a sphere phisher might comb Web sites looking for details about visitors in an attempt to create more personal spam because, after all, I'm more likely to click on a bogus link if the email says "Dear Debra."

Social engineering is an old trick gone techno. It's nothing more than inventing a situation where someone is more likely to give up personal information. Think of the fake eBay emails a few years back.

My inbox has been rather peaceful of late, despite the worlwide increase.

Of 377 emails I received yesterday, three were pure spam -- totally unsolicited from a "company" I've never had dealings with. All were weight-loss products. Hint: Implying that I'm fat will not convince me to click on your link.

Three were from companies I've never done business with online. Hint: Hardware store, I only visit your real building when I'm having a home-repair crisis. I don't equate overflowing toilets that have brought me there with the holiday season.

Another dozen or so were from companies where I frequently or occasionally shop online. Hint: If you don't mean it, don't waste my time with an "opt out" button.

A few were actually from people I wanted to hear from. The rest were self-induced spam: Newsletters, news alerts, subscriptions. You know, the stuff you scan and vow to read later but instead wind up bulk deleting once a week.

So I have no current cause to complain about spam volume.

And I'm also happy I don't get the type at home that once in a while caused naked women to pop up on my screen at work. I'd never get Big Guy off the computer if she started showing up here.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg.  All rights reserved.

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