If you’ve ever received a spam email, or more likely, a few thousand, you will have seen a common thread among all of them. According to research from MessageLabs Intelligence, certain patterns in word usage can be identified in the chaos.
One way to identify a pattern is to look at the words most commonly used in spam. MessageLabs Intelligence analysed a random sample of global spam over a one-week period and, despite a jumble of topics and noise, certain words stood out.
The popular words identified in the analysis, which include here!, today!, fingertips!, online!, shipping!, available, and medications, are generic terms, but they are geared towards encouraging an immediate reaction and creating a sense of urgency, for instance through the use of exclamation marks.
Spammers create a sense of urgency in their messages to generate a fast response, as the less time someone spends thinking about the message, the less likely they are to realise it is a scam.
Individual botnets have different profiles from general spam. Because of the way they are used, they tend to have a more restricted set of words, as they stick to a smaller number of set topics.
Spammers pay botnet ‘herders’ (the people responsible for the spread of the malware used to make botnets, and the control of the infected machines) for the use of their botnets, because they can send mail in far greater volumes than any individual spammer could manage.
Botnet ‘herders’ also decrease the likelihood that the spammer will get caught and prosecuted, as there is no single source of the spam, which makes them harder to trace. The use of the botnet goes to the highest bidder. This means that each botnet will only send a small number of topics at any given time, from a small number of spammers who are able to pay for the ‘service’.
View the full blog for more information about common word usage patterns including word-clouds for general spam and specific botnets.