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Google+, Dropbox Used To Send Spam Messages For Dating Sites

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Spammers are now using a rather ingenious way of sending spam messages for dating sites; security firm Symantec has warned. As per a blog post published on the company’s website, spammers are utilizing built-in notification systems of Google+ and Dropbox for sending emails that promote adult dating and webcam offers. Using this sneaky technique not only ensures that such messages get delivered into a user’s inbox, it also promises higher email opening rates since users are more likely to open messages coming from trusted sources like Google and Dropbox.

Dropbox recently added a feature which allows users to request files from others, including from those who do not have a Dropbox account yet. When a Dropbox user invites another person to view a file or a folder stored on the company’s servers, the target user receives a notification from the no-reply@dropbox.com email address. Since these notifications can be customized, spammers are free to add any text into them while sharing files or inviting others to join their team. According to Symantec, spammers are customizing Dropbox’s notifications to lure others into joining dating and webcam sites.

Apart from Dropbox, spammers are also using Google+’s notification system to end their messages. The modus operandi used by spammers in this case is simple; they first create a fake Google+ account and then publish a post which includes provocative images of women taken from other sites. The post even includes a goo.gl link (link shortened with Google’s own URL shortening service) which promises to show more adult images but in reality redirects users to dating and webcam portals. And since Google+ posts can be shared with other users via emails, spammers are able to send their message across to a large number of people without arousing suspicion from Google.

By piggybacking on Google+’s and Dropbox’s notification systems, spammers are able to bypass strict spam filters used by many email service providers to detect and block spam messages. Also, since Google and Dropbox are whitelisted by most major email providers, these messages get delivered even if they contain lots of links. As per Symantec, this technique is being used by affiliates for promoting dating and webcam offers. Affiliates promoting dating sites can earn anything between $1 to $6 for every user signup so this method can generate a huge windfall for the spammers. And let’s not forget that this method can also be abused by hackers and criminals to distribute malware making it a lot more dangerous than it appears.

Symantec has already informed Google and Dropbox regarding its findings. These two companies in return have blocked accounts of spammers who were abusing their notification system to promote dating offers. As a user, you should be on the lookout for such messages and promptly report/delete them as soon as you come across them. It goes without saying that spammers will continue to discover such creative ways of sending messages so the only way to avoid falling into their trap is to be more vigilant.

April 30, 2016

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