Spam is nothing new. In most cases it ends up directly in a spam or junkmail folder. Those unwanted messages that make it through to the Inbox are generally deleted without a second glance. Spammers know how to exploit headlines to capture attention, so the recent confession from Bruce Jenner about transitioning into a woman and the sensational reports of the impact of fallout with the Kardashian family is a spam goldmine.
Spam is BIG business. Most of the products and services pitched by spam are dubious—at best. This is especially true of the pharmaceutical industry where non-FDA approved drugs such as weight loss medications are advertised. Spam campaigns also frequently claim that the product or service is endorsed by a famous celebrity.
Of course the celebrities themselves don’t know they’re endorsing such products. Spammers function in a world without legal concerns or formal permissions. A recent example of this was revealed by Barracuda. Spammers are luring potential victims with sensational email subjects such as “Kardashians beaten by Bruce Jenner”. It’s a sad commentary on society, but the Bruce Jenner interview with Diane Sawyer got more attention on both media and social media than the earthquake in Nepal which claimed the lives of thousands of people.
The basic modus operandi of a weight loss drug spam campaign is to use a good looking celebrity with a perfect body making claims (obviously without his/her consent) that they use the given product and have obtained perfect health or body as a result. This message is distributed to millions—possibly tens or hundreds of millions—of people in the hope that even a miniscule percentage of the recipients will be foolish enough to read the email. Some portion of those who read it will then believe the pitch and buy the product.
Spammers employ herds of botnets to distribute email from a wide variety of email addresses, IP addresses, Web pages, etc. Regardless of where the message originates or how it gets to your Inbox, the common element is that they all lead to a site where users can spend their money and make the cash registers of the spammers jingle with the soothing sound of coins.
Given the immense number of potential victims on the Internet it’s easy to imagine how a fraction of a fraction of a percent are still sufficient to generate windfall gains. Security vendors come up with new techniques to identify and block spam but spammers always seem to stay a step ahead—always devising new ways and techniques to fool the public.
Hardware and software security solutions can help to significantly decrease the amount of spam that gets to your Inbox in the first place but ultimately it comes down to the individual users. Educated users who understand the risks and can differentiate between genuine advertisements and spam pitches are more effective than automated detection tools.
If everyone stopped spending money on spam it would no longer be a lucrative business model. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure that we don’t contribute to the problem by responding to spam messages and spending our money. With a little common sense we should be able to reduce or eliminate the impact of spam.