Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

E-mailed malware disguised as group coupon offers on the rise

Spammers take advantage of the rising popularity of e-mailed advertisements by mimicking them and attaching viruses.

Donna Tam Staff Writer / News
Donna Tam covers Amazon and other fun stuff for CNET News. She is a San Francisco native who enjoys feasting, merrymaking, checking her Gmail and reading her Kindle.
Donna Tam
2 min read
Kaspersky Lab

Be sure to double check that Groupon you received in your e-mail -- spammers are using the popularity of e-mailed advertisements for group discount deals to send more malware.

The rise of malware through fake e-mail advertisements and notifications are on the rise, according to a study released today by security firm Kaspersky Lab.

"They are primarily doing so by sending out malicious e-mails designed to look like official notifications. Kaspersky Lab is seeing more and more malicious spam designed to look like coupon service notifications," the report said.

The firm said it also noted these coupon spam mail in its spring report but has found that the trend is increasing. Instead of attaching viruses as files to these types of e-mails, spammers are now adding malicious links. Ads mimicking Groupon seem to be most prevalent, the firm said.

"Kaspersky Lab experts expected to see the appearance of this type of spam since coupons are very popular among Internet users and they trust coupon services," the study said. "An e-mail from a coupon service is an ideal disguise for malicious users."

In July, the firm found an e-mail that looked like a notification for a new promotion for Groupon, complete with links to the Groupon Web site. It included an attached ZIP file named Gift coupon.exe. This executable file, a file that can run an application on your computer, contained a Trojan malware program.

Kaspersky Lab is now starting to see that many of these fake advertisements no longer have attachments -- they have malicious links instead.

Here's an image of spam that lured users in by using the Amazon name and adding giveaways:

Spam posing as an Amazon Local deals giveaway. Kaspersky Lab

To avoid being duped, users should remember that coupon services never include attachments in their e-mails, and users should double check if a seemingly legitimate e-mail is actually from the service it is claiming to be. You can check this by looking at the sender name, or hovering your mouse over the links to get a preview of what URLs they're linking to.

Other types of popular spammy e-mail disguised as notifications included fake letters from hosting services, banking systems, social networks, online stores, and hotel confirmations. General spam currently makes up 71.5 percent of e-mails, with e-mails containing malicious attachments like the fake Groupon ones accounting for 3.9 percent of e-mails, according to Kaspersky Lab.

Thanks to the election, spammers also favored using President Barack Obama's name in e-mails, along with the name of his wife, Michelle Obama. The First Lady's name was actually used to add a presidential twist to the Nigerian scammers scheme. The e-mailer claimed to be Michele Obama sitting on a pile of cash at the White House and promised the recipient millions of dollars if they would just reply with their addresses, telephone numbers, and $240.

To see more examples of scams, click here. It's a real link to the report, but you might want to hover your mouse over it just in case.