Pump-and-dump scammers turn to Excel

Scammers using excel to bypass spam filters

Pump-and-dump stock scammers have begun using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to deliver their get-rich-quick schemes, another in a series of moves they've made trying to slip past antispam filters.

E-mail security vendor Commtouch Software spotted several spam runs Saturday that feature Excel attachments with file names such as "invoice20202.xls" and "stock information-3572.xls."

The Excel worksheets contain the unsolicited message, which, as in all classic pump-and-dump scams, touts shares of one or more lightly-traded companies as hot and ready to climb. The fraudsters, however, have already bought shares and only spam their shills to get others to buy in. If enough do, the price goes up, and the scammers sell their holdings. The duped recipients of the spam are left holding the bag when the price later plunges.

According to Amir Lev, Commtouch's chief technology officer, the turn to Excel is just the latest twist in the scam. "Excel is a natural progression after the recent spate of PDF spam, which itself is a natural development from basic image spam," said Lev. "We expect other file formats to follow suit. Think of the spam potential in PowerPoint files or Word documents."

Pump-and-dump spam has been rapidly changing tactics, dropping images and substituting PDF files to evade spam-blocking software. Virtually every security company has set out warnings of recent big spikes in the amount of PDF-based spam. In fact, Commtouch was one of the first. Spammers started using PDF files only a few weeks ago; before that, they relied on embedded images to get their content past filters.

Most users associate danger and Excel files because of the latter's use by hackers to delivery malware. Sporadic attacks, often very narrowly focused, using Excel spreadsheets -- as well as other Microsoft Office file formats -- have been launched since early 2006. For example, in June a Commtouch rival, U.K.-based MessageLabs, reported that 95 percent of all targeted attacks -- those where one piece of spam was shot at one user -- involved Office file attachments.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Gregg Keizer

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?