(STAR) By Eden Estopace - Image spam is on the decline. The trend, first noted in the Symantec State of Spam report last May, continues.

In a new report on the state of spam last month, Symantec reported that “image spam continued to decline to an average of 14.5 percent for the month of June, down from 27 percent and 37 percent in the months of April and March, respectively.”

This piece of good news, however, is tempered by Symantec’s observation that there was an increase in new spam techniques, which greatly differed from image spam.

Image spam or a kind of unsolicited bulk e-mail presented as an image or picture has gained popularity in the past as a way to circumvent e-mail filtering software. Symantec estimates that image spam accounted for nearly 52 percent of all spam.

Last May, Symantec reported that “image spammers were using legitimate image upload hosting solutions for stock spam attacks.”

In June, it says there was an increase in spam which used links and embedded URLs to reference images contained in spam.

In July, Symantec noted the emergence of PDF image spam, which has two variants — spam e-mail which has a PDF attached purporting to be a legitimate stock newsletter, and PDF attached to the e-mail containing a stock spam image.

In the first variant, the newsletter, according to Symantec, does not follow the normal rules of images typically used in spam. In the second variant, the approach is very similar to image spam attacks focusing on stocks.

“The goal is to evade anti-spam filters which depend on being able to ‘read’ the text of a message. This variant of PDF image spam was targeted at over 30 million end-users between June 17 and June 27, 2007,” Symantec says.

Notwithstanding the downtrend in image spam, Symantec says spamming remains a robust activity. Overall spam levels, according to the report, remained consistent for the month of June at the SMTP layer coming in on average around 65 percent.

On the other hand, scams and fraud spam combined continued to rise from nine percent in March to 14 percent in June.

There is a bright note, however, in the area of health spam as it declined from 23 percent in March to 13 percent in June.

More than ever, there is also a wider variety of spams detected by anti-spam filtering software. In addition to the more popular spam categories such as product e-mail attacks offering general goods or services, and adult e-mail attacks, which contain information inappropriate for persons below 18 years old such as porn, personal ads or relationship advice, there were more financial spam or fraud e-mails that contain offers related to money or financial opportunities that are known to be fraudulent or intentionally misguiding.

The Symantec report also included the new onslaught of health e-mail attacks which offer health-related products and services, and leisure e-mail attacks or those offering advertising prizes and discounts such as vacation offers and online casinos.

Still another kind of spam getting popular nowadays are political messages advertising a political candidate’s or party’s campaign, and spiritual e-mail attacks which contain information pertaining to religion or evangelization.

In the Asia-Pacific region, financial and product spams are the most common, each accounting for 24 percent of the total average spam detected during the period.

One interesting spam attack observed in July claimed to offer free money to a business, “hassle-free.”

The recipient, according to Symantec, was directed to call a number to turn this “dream into a reality.” This spam e-mail was targeted at over 32 million end-users between June 7 and June 27, 2007.

Another technique employed was the use of famous names in subject lines to lure the recipient into opening the spam e-mail.

Symantec also noted the increasing volume of spam targeted at a specific region or country.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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