Spammers cloak scams by redirecting through Google

Spammers are using Google accounts to cover their tracks

Spammers are using thousands of Google accounts to camouflage their scams from anti-spam filters, a security researcher says. He dubs the practice "Spam 2.0".

Rather than inserting links to the actual pages touting their products, some junk mailers are sticking in links from domains registered with Google Page Creator — the search engine's free web page maker — or accounts with Google's Blogger.com service, says Dan Hubbard, vice president of security research at Websense.

"They'll send out a big long spam run, and include the URL they registered with Google Page or a blog service," says Hubbard. "But there's nothing on that page but a bunch of obfuscated JavaScript." The JavaScript simply redirects the user to the actual destination, where the spammer shills his products or services.

The tactic has been used my malware makers, but it has only recently been adopted by spammers, says Hubbard. Websense first noticed the technique in November, but it was only in January that it showed up in numbers. Websense has been intercepting "tens of thousands" of such emails daily, he claims.

"Sometimes we'll see a run where they 'taste' the real URL, and then they'll do a much larger spam run with the Google Page URLs," says Hubbard, explaining how the spammers seem to be testing the efficacy of each. "It appears that they believe they get a more effective hit rate with the Google URLs."

That's likely, since most spam filters don't blink at letting through messages with embedded links to Google's services, Hubbard says. "It's a great way for them to hide [the fact that the message is] spam, and a good way for them to get it through filters."

The spammers have borrowed other parts of the ploy from malware authors, too. Just as some recent attacks have been launched using frequently-changing JavaScript, the redirect code placed on the Google Pages or on blogs can fluctuate, depending on the originating spam message. The scams are also using fast-flux techniques to rapidly change the resolving destinations of the links, says Hubbard.

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