Political Spam – Georgia ConflictAugust 17th, 2008, by dcawley
I thought it worth discussing the spam e-mails being sent related to the conflict in Georgia. So far, our spam traps show two very different types of spam mailings related to the issue which appear to have very different purposes.
The most recent messages I’ve seen are in German and originate from the Cutwail botnet. Typically spam messages are used to promote a product or aim to infect even more machines. Interestingly, in this case it’s neither – it’s a political message which actually links to a youtube video of a Fox News broadcast.
The Subject line is “Wahrheit uber Goergien Konflikt” which translates as the “Truth about Georgia Conflict”. It makes claims that YouTube have manipulated the visitor numbers so that the video isn’t popular (which I doubt). It goes on to state that we are not “media puppets” and we are opposed to “propaganda in the media” and that the information should be spread like a fire. I’ve removed the actual link to the video as I don’t want to promote traffic to it. Here’s a single sample of the message which originated from 18.104.22.168 which is listed on the CBL as associated with Cutwail. Although we’ve seen high volumes of these hit spam traps.
Subject: Wahrheit uber Georgien Konflikt
Ein kleines Madchen spricht die Wahrheit uber georgische Angriffe:
(YouTube manipuliert den Aufrufzahler und lasst dieses Video nicht popular werden)
2000 Tote innerhalb von 2 Tagen durch georgischen Angriff – RIP
Fur alle Kinder, Frauen, Manner die durch georgische Angriffe ermordet wurde starten wir diese Aktion.
Wir sind gegen Propaganda in deutschen Medien!
Wir sind keine Medien-Marionetten.
Wir wollten die WAHRHEIT! Wir sind das Volk!
Verbreite diese Nachricht wie ein Lauffeuer! (Emails, Blogs, Foren, ICQ)
Zusammen sind wir stark.
The second spam e-mail referencing Georgia appears to be coming from the Mega-D Botnet. There were reports that this could be a new botnet but the samples I’ve seen show infections of Mega-D so I’d need to see further evidence to support that claim although I couldn’t rule it out completely. Rather than spreading a political message, this spam links to malware to cause further infections. It looks like it’s simply leveraging a hot topic to socially engineer people to click on it rather than spread a political message. Gary Warner over at UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham) has an excellent Anti-Spam blog and gives an analysis of this spam message.
It’s clever in that the subject line claims to be from the BBC NEWS. This may sound familiar to the CNN/MSNBC fake headline spam which was sent from the Rustock Botnet but it’s not at all related other than borrowing some social engineering ideas. A sample originated from 22.214.171.124 which is listed on the CBL as being infected as a Mega-D bot. The headers of the message also share heuristic type features of that particular botnet such as a forged header and a ratware singature. The message sent is as follows with the addition of an image of the President if viewed in a HTML mail user agent.
Subject: BBC NEWS.
Last news! Saakashvili (president of Georgia) the gay! See it now!
It’s not suprising that Botnets would leverage a major current affair event to try and get a recipient to read it. What did interest me was the fact that both Rustock and Mega-D are both using news agencies and both Cutwail and Mega-D are both using the Georgia conflict in their messages. There’s an overlap in the social engineering techniques used by the different Botnets as they learn from each other what appears to work. Another interesting point is that the spam from Mega-D is pro-Russian and the spam from Cutwail is pro-Georgian so it’s probably unlikely that the latter is under the control of the RBN (Russian Business Network).