Microsoft word document spam

McAfee Avert Labs has recently seen spammers start to use Microsoft Word documents and HTML attachments to deliver their advertising payload. By moving the advertising content, most importantly the URL link, into an attached document rather than the body of the email message, spammers are able to evade some of the Anti-Spam vendors’ content filtering techniques. This is because most vendors don’t scan content inside attachments because this has previously not been necessary.

Microsoft Word is a convenient format because it supports clickable links and most recipients will have Word installed or would be able to open the document with another compatible word processor.

The spammer is varying the attachment file name, email body text and subject in nearly every batch of the messages sent, for example:

  • Subject: Billing Update, Bill #90023
    Forward original invoice with attached invoice transmittal sheet to the contracting officer.
  • Subject: Your receipt for Invoice #25826
    Credit memo attached to deleted payment receipt cannot be applied to different invoice.
    Software order has a Related invoice attached with prepayment information.

And other subjects. The conclusion, according to Avert Labs, is that to keep up with this, Anti-Spam vendors may need to add attachment scanning to their solutions, which would require additional processing power on customers email servers. In addition, the attachments mean spam is getting bigger. The messages in the current campaign are only 35k in size, but Word documents are well known for growing very quickly in size. A rise in document spam would mean recipients’ mailboxes and servers clog up faster, worsening the burden that spam puts on us all.

For more information and screen shots about this, check the Avert Labs blog.

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