Cut-price Vista image spam scam poses threat to users

Despite the price tags associated with buying Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system (OS), users are warned against being tempted by the bait of an email offering them the software at a massive discount.

The tempting offer is just a front for an aggressive image spam campaign, according to security expert Sophos.

Unlike traditional spamming, image spam makes use of embedded graphics to get the intended message across, in most cases to promote weight loss or sexual performance aids and stock pump-and-dump scams.

This latest campaign claims that users can save $319.05 by downloading Vista today.

As yet, it is unclear what the impact of giving in to the discount temptation would be, for example providing a pirated copy of the OS or stealing users' credit card details.

Regardless of the consequences, Sophos is urging users not to fall into the spammer's trap.

"This widespread spam campaign carries all the hallmarks of a typical image spam," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"The spammer has added speckled noise in the form of random pixels to make the graphic slightly different on each sending, and users are told to type in the name of the website rather than clicking on a link. Approximately 30 per cent of all spam now uses images to try and sneak past anti-spam filters.

"Computer users need to ensure that they have strong defences in place or they will continue to be bombarded by nuisances like this."

As the new year draws ever closer, Sophos is advising users to take the issue of image, as well as traditional, spam more seriously.

"The growth of image spam is one of the security stories of the year," said Cluely.


Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.