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McAfee, Inc. Sees Increase in Island-Hopping Spammers


By Derek Iwasiuk
November 02, 2006

McAfee, Inc. announced that its anti-spam researchers have been tracking a new trend nicknamed "spam island-hopping," in which island-hopping spammers use the domain names of small islands as Web site links in spam campaigns to disguise themselves from spam filters that traditionally catch more well-known domains. McAfee traced spam activity from the Isle of Man to the tiny tropical island of Tokelau in the South Pacific.

Traditionally, spammers have used well-known top level domains (TLDs) such as .com, .biz or .info. By using top level domains from small island countries, such as .im from the Isle of Man, spammers attempt to avoid detection by using domains previously unknown to spam filters. Using a lesser- known top level domain makes it harder to distinguish spam from legitimate e- mail by examining the links in the e-mails.

This trend was first discovered when McAfee researchers noticed a significant increase in the use of .st domains, which is the top level domain for Sao Tome and Principe, a pair of small islands off the west coast of Africa. This unusual activity raised a flag for McAfee's researchers, who then tracked the spammers on a virtual migration around the globe. Subsequently, spam using top level domains from small islands has continued to increase.

McAfee has identified the following small islands as being favored by spammers:

TLD     Country                 Land Area (sq. km)       Population

.tk     Tokelau                                   10                        1,392
.cc     Cocos (Keeling) Islands          14                         628
.tv     Tuvalu                                     26                       11,810
.as     American Samoa                     199                      57,794
.im     Isle of Man                            572                      75,550
.to     Tonga                                     748                      114,689
.st     Sao Tome and Principe         1,001                    193,413
* Islands listed in order of land area

"This new trend is another example of spammers' relentless quest to spread their abuse of Internet domains far and wide," said Guy Roberts, senior development manager, McAfee Anti-Spam Research & Development Team. "Some of these islands have dozens of spammed domains per square mile."

Stopping spam requires using advanced technologies like McAfee's anti-spam products, which use domain name reputation, IP reputation filtering, and content filtering to stop a new spam campaign in less than three minutes.

For more information on how to protect against spam and phishing, visit

About McAfee, Inc.

McAfee, Inc. (, headquartered in Santa Clara, California and the global leader in intrusion prevention and security risk management, delivers proactive and proven solutions and services that secure systems and networks around the world. With its unmatched security expertise and commitment to innovation, McAfee empowers home users, businesses, the public sector, and service providers with the ability to block attacks, prevent disruptions, and continuously track and improve their security.

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