Economy, swine flu top spam topics of 2009

A year-end study suggests spammers used the economy, swine flu, the death of Michael Jackson and hype over Twitter to lure victims into scams.

A year-end study suggests spammers used the economy, swine flu, the death of Michael Jackson and hype over Twitter to lure victims into scams.

Symantec, a maker of computer security software, says it analyzed more than 40 trillion spam messages in the last 12 months. That averages out to 5,000 for every person in the world.

Spammers also frequently tried to dupe internet users with email subject lines about health care, promises of free Harry Potter ebooks, car discounts, diplomas and Halloween costume tips.

The celebrities most cited by spammers in their scams were Jackson, tennis star Serena Williams, Patrick Swayze, the stars of Harry Potter and U.S. President Barack Obama.

Symantec predicts users of social networks increasingly will be targeted in 2010, as will users of Apple computers and smartphones, who have thus far been mostly immune to most viruses and malicious attacks.

The use of shortened URLs on Twitter is also being cited as a growing risk for internet users, who could unknowingly click on a link that leads to a scam.