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BizReport : Email Marketing : July 28, 2010

MessageLabs: Beward the shortened URL trap

Shortened URLs may be the simplest way to point social-list members to your deals and coupons, marketers, but beware the ease of use. According to the latest information from Symantec's MessageLabs, shortened URL spam is rising very fast, and that could hamper your efforts as consumers become aware of fraudsters using the shorter links.

by Kristina Knight

MessageLabs research shows that shortened URL spam increase year over year from 9.3% to 18% of all spam. Much of the short URL spam can be attributed to Storm's botnet, but as more fraudsters realize the shortened URLs offer a way around CAPTCHAs it is likely that the percentages will only increase. Added to that, spammers are now using botnets as well as actual people to break CAPTCHAs, a trend that may be devastating to many marketers.

How are spammers getting around the anti-spam filters? The actual shortened URLs, according to Paul Wood.

"When spammers include a shortened URL in spam messages, these shortened hyperlinks contain reputable and legitimate domains, making it harder for traditional anti-spam filters to identify the messages as spam based on the reputation of the domains found in the spam emails," said Paul Wood, MessageLabs Intelligence Senior Analyst, Symantec Hosted Services.

Wood went on to report that while about 28% of short URL spam didn't originate from bot-nets, but many spam links are sent from webmail accounts created using CAPTCHA breaking tools.

Other highlights of the report include:

• 23.4 billion emails sent on April 30, 2010 contained shortened URL spam
• During a 43 day span in Q2 2010 at least 1 in every 200 emails contained shortened URL spam
• Q2 also saw 10 days when shortened URL spam reached at least 5% of all spam

Tags: email marketing, MessageLabs, short url spam, spam, spam rates

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