January Shows Drop In Pornographic Spam

After accounting for 22% of spam messages in the first half of 2006, pornographic spam dropped down to just 4% in January.
After years of being the subject of more spam messages than even get-rich-quick schemes and Britney Spears, pornographic spam finally seems to be in decline.

For years, pornography has volleyed back and forth with the likes of messages about Viagra sales and dubious mortgage deals for the title of top spam topic. Now, it seems that pornography is the David Hasselhoff of spam -- a has-been.

Symantec's monthly spam report shows that "adult," or pornographic, spam only accounted for 4% of all the spam that was sent out in January. In the first half of last year, adult spam accounted for 22% of spam messages.

Taking its place as the top spam topic is financial spam, closely followed by product pitches and health-related topics, according to Symantec. Financial spam went from 15% of all messages in the first half of last year to 25% in January 2007. Both product-related and health-related spam came in with 23%.

"It could be that spammers are shifting tactics," says Doug Bowers, senior director of anti-abuse engineering at Symantec. "There are a lot of ways to make money on the Internet, and spammers are very clever in trying to determine what works best for them. Adult spam was one of the early types. People are becoming more familiar with it, and they're getting better at avoiding it. New types of attacks might draw more interest from them and entice people to click and open them up."

Bowers says the new trend in spam right now is for pump-and-dump stock schemes and other financial topics. Pump-and-dump scams tout a specific company's stock with misleading or outright fraudulent statements sent out in spam. After consumers race out to buy the stock and pump up the stock price, the spammers cash in by selling, or dumping, their shares at the inflated price.

Overall, spam remains up.

Bowers notes that the amount of spam sent out hit a high in December and stayed there in January. The total volume of spam ratcheted up 55% in the last six months, he says.