Huge pump-and-dump spam spike in progress

A massive spam blast that started Tuesday is still in progress and shows no sign of abating.

A massive spam blast that started Tuesday is still in progress and shows no sign of abating, a security company said.

"The scale of this stock pump-and-dump spam campaign is like nothing we've seen before," said Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos PLC.

Similar to countless other e-mail campaigns in both delivery method and intent -- the message arrives as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file and baits the scam by touting quick money to be made on an up-and-coming, if completely unknown, stock.

It's the size of the spike that separates this from every other spam run, reported Sophos. The campaign, which first appeared in German users' in-boxes Tuesday around 11:40 a.m. EDT, has boosted the amount of spam Sophos is trapping at customers' gateways by 30 percent and more. Although the volume peaked in the first two hours Tuesday, it remains very high Wednesday, added Mark Harris, the director of SophosLabs, in a posting to the team's blog Wednesday.

PDFs as spam are not new; neither are pump-and-dump schemes where scammers tout shares of a lightly-traded company. The fraudsters, who have already bought shares of the firm in question, flood users with spam to get others to buy in. If enough do, the share price goes up, and the scammers sell their holdings. The duped recipients are left holding the bag when the price later plunges.

The target in this spam run is Prime Time Group, a Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based company that owns and operates convenience stores in Missouri and Puerto Rico, as well as wireless product shops in the Caribbean region. "There is nothing to suggest that the company in question [has] anything to do with this campaign," said Harris, who also noted that the price of Prime Time Group's shares has climbed 60 percent since Friday. "Recently, the company announced plans to open two new [wireless] stores in Puerto Rico," said Harris. "It is this news that seems to have attracted the attention of the spammers."

Sophos' researchers, as others have before them, linked large malware attacks of late to increases in unsolicited commercial e-mail in general -- and to this major campaign specifically. The attacks, in which malicious code piggybacks on e-mail posing as electronic greeting cards, precede the spam and target unprotected or unpatched PCs that are hijacked and added to the hacker's botnet. Those compromised computers -- called "zombies" in the vernacular -- are next instructed to send the pump-and-dump spam.

"We will be watching closely to see if another campaign starts later today," said Harris.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?