New figures from messaging threat protection specialists Cloudmark have revealed that text message spammers used more than 350,000 unique SMS spam variants in 2012. December saw the widest variety, with more than 53,000 different variants received worldwide.
The most common spam last year claimed to be gift card deals (44%), free iPhones and iPads (11%) and Payment Protection Insurance compensation (3%), which was particularly common in the UK. Although some spammers offer a genuine gift, the consumer often compromises their personal information in order to respond - and can find the value of any gift is outweighed by associated costs.
Cloudmark’s 2012 Messaging Threat Report uses data from the Cloudmark-powered GSMA Spam Reporting Service launched at Mobile World Congress last year. Individual consumers can report unsolicited messages by forwarding them to 7726 (which spells ‘SPAM’ on most mobile keypads) if their mobile operator is participating in the scheme.
This year, the top spam trends expected to continue are:
- Fake apps that cause customers to send spam themselves, such as the SpamSoldier Android Botnet. This sent SMS spam before deleting itself and installing a pirated copy of the game it originally claimed to be. It’s estimated that several thousand people had mobile devices infected with this software.
- Blended messaging threats that combine SMS messaging with other communication processes, such as email, instant messaging and social networking. Consumers receive messages that entice them to use other media - and potentially commit to some form of subscription or payment.
Neil Cook, Cloudmark’s Chief Technology Officer, said “Global smartphone adoption rapidly increased in 2012, with smartphone users passing the 1 billion mark and this has consequentially resulted in a hike in mobile messaging spam. As opposed to email, we often automatically trust that our SMS must come from someone we know or have done business with and attackers are well aware of this wide acceptance, using it to their advantage. Our research is highlighting the growth of sophisticated mobile threats as new mobile technologies develop and 2013 will see a rise in this sophistication.”