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The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Spam'

Friday, March 08

The War on Spam

By Brad

Some good news in the always raging war on spam. As Brendan Sasso of The HIll reports:

The Federal Trade Commission charged 29 people on Thursday with illegally sending unwanted spam text messages.

In eight complaints filed in courtrooms around the country, the FTC accused the defendants of collectively sending 180 million messages claiming to offer free prizes, such as gift cards worth $1,000 to Best Buy, Walmart or Target.

But when people tried to redeem the prizes, they were sent to websites requesting sensitive personal information, the FTC said. The websites often claimed that they were only collecting shipping information, but they would sell the data to third-parties, according to the complaints.

While charges against 29 alleged spammers is just a drop in the spam ocean, it’s good to see the FTC taking action — especially since text spam can often hurt consumer wallets just by being sent.

Thursday, July 19

Taking Down Spam

By Brad

Via Gerry Smith of the Huffington Post comes some good news on the war against spam front:

Computer users may see fewer e-mail offers for cheap Viagra and fake Rolexes after security researchers this week helped shut down the world’s third-largest botnet, a network of zombie computers that was sending about 18 percent of worldwide spam messages.

Atif Mushtaq, a researcher at the security company FireEye, said in a blog post that security researchers had worked with Internet service providers in several countries—including some known as safehavens for cybercrime—to bring down servers controlling the so-called Grum botnet, which was sending 18 billion junk messages a day.

18 billion junk messages a day? Wow.

Monday, April 30

The Latest Front in the War on Spam

By Brad

If you’ve noticed an uptick in spam hitting your mobile phone, you’re not alone. As Bloomberg’s Olga Kharif reports:

The unwelcome messages that have been clogging e-mail inboxes for two decades have made the jump to handsets, as more people use smartphones in place of personal computers and texting becomes more popular. The number of U.S. spam text messages rose 45 percent last year to 4.5 billion messages, said Richi Jennings, an industry analyst. Spam phone calls also are proliferating. The surge is costing carriers money and frustrating users, who must pay for the messages and deal with potentially fraudulent texts.

Kharif goes on to report that carriers and the Federal Trade Commission are actively working to stop — or at least slow down — the problem.

Wednesday, January 04

The Rise of Social Spam

By Brad

At the Wall Street Journal, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Shayndi Raice, and Amir Efrati report on a new front in the never-ending war against spam:

Spam, one of the Internet’s oldest annoyances, is gearing up for a second act. Unlike traditional email spam, which usually comes from strangers, this new form—dubbed “social” spam—often appears to be from a friend. Criminals find social networks alluring because they can spread messages though a chain of trusted sources.

Such spam puts the usefulness of social networking at risk. Facebook says less than 4% of the content shared on its site is spam and Twitter says just 1.5% of all tweets were “spammy” in 2010. But Facebook adds that the volume is growing faster than its user base. On any given day, spam hits less than 0.5% of Facebook users, or some four million people.

Friday, August 05

Spam King Surrenders

By Brad

Good news today in the ongoing war against spammers. As Gautham Nagesh of The Hill reports, the so-called “Spam King” of Facebook has surrendered to the FBI:

According to the Department of Justice, Sanford Wallace, 43, of Las Vegas, compromised roughly a half-million Facebook accounts and sent roughly 27 million messages through the social network between November 2008 and March 2009. He appeared in court Thursday and was released on a $100,000 bond.

Friday, March 18

Victory of the Day

By Brad

Some good news in the never ending war against spam: Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit has taken down no less than the world’s biggest spam network. Via Download Squad:

Rustock, at its peak, was a botnet of around 2 million spam-sending zombies capable of sending out 30 billion spam email per day. Microsoft’s wholesale slaughter of Rustock could reduce worldwide spam output by up to 39%.

Rustock was taken down, piece by piece, in a similar way to the Mega-D botnet. First the master controllers, the machines that send out commands to enslaved zombies, were identified. Microsoft quickly seized some of these machines located in the U.S. for further analysis, and worked with police in the Netherlands to disable some of the command structure outside of the U.S.

While a new spam network will no doubt rise up in Rustock’s place, at least we’ll have a respite from Nigerian scams and Viagra ads.

Wednesday, June 16

Spam Across the Pond

By Brad

According to a new report from Britain’s CPP, people in the UK were forced to wade through 3.7 billion — yes, billion — spam and scam messages last year alone. That’s over 420,000 emails dispersed throughout Britain every single hour.

Tuesday, May 18

Spamming Anti-Spammer

By Brad

Via Krebs on Security comes the bizarre saga of a Moscow businessman, his role as an anti-spam advisor for the Russian government, and the accusation that said anti-spam crusading businessman is running an international spam organization of his own.

Thursday, April 22

One Spammer Down…

By Brad

A federal jury has dealt a blow to at least one “Nigerian scammer.” From the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release:

Nora R. Dannehy, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that a federal jury in Bridgeport has found OKPAKO MIKE DIAMREYAN, 31, a citizen of Nigeria who sometimes resided in Accra, Ghana, guilty of three counts of wire fraud stemming from an alleged “advance fee” scam. The trial began on February 11 and the jury returned its verdict this afternoon.

Mr. Diamreyan has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, along with a fine of $250,000 for each count.

Friday, March 26

The Business of Spam

By Brad

New Scientist has created an interesting graphic that helps shed light on the history of spam. Fast Company offers some insight on what it means in business terms:

Out of 35 million span emails sent out in one month, only 28 actually turned into sales. (Are you reading this, guy who will no doubt drop spam below this very post, likely in the form of ASCII “bear” or “battleship” art?) But if you extrapolate that out to the whole network, that comes to $3.5 million in earnings.

Friday, January 29

Interview with a Scammer

By Brad

The UK site Scam Detectives has a fascinating interview with a convicted Nigerian email scammer:

Scam-Detective: How did you find victims for your scams?

John: First you need to understand how the gangs work. At the bottom are the “foot soldiers”, kids who spend all of their time online to find email addresses and send out the first emails to get people interested. When they receive a reply, the victim is passed up the chain, to someone who has better English to get copies of ID from them like copies of their passport and driving licenses and build up trust. Then when they are ready to ask for money, they are passed further up again to someone who will pretend to be a barrister or shipping agent who will tell the victim that they need to pay charges or even a bribe to get the big cash amount out of the country. When they pay up, the gang master will collect the money from the Western Union office, using fake ID that they have taken from other scam victims.

The full interview is worth checking out.

Friday, December 04

A Sick Scam

By Brad

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released an alert warning of email scams centered around the H1N1 (or “Swine Flu”) virus. From the alert:

CDC has received reports of fraudulent emails (phishing) referencing a CDC sponsored State Vaccination Program.

The messages request that users must create a personal H1N1 (swine flu) Vaccination Profile on the website. The message then states that anyone that has reached the age of 18 has to have his/her personal Vaccination Profile on the site.

Wednesday, November 11

A Victory Against Spam

By Brad

Via The Register comes the news that a group of researchers have managed to take down a botnet responsible for an estimated 1/3 of the world’s spam:

After carefully analyzing the machinations of the massive botnet, alternately known as Mega-D and Ozdok, the FireEye employees last week launched a coordinated blitz on dozens of its command and control channels. The channels were used to send new spamming instructions to the legions of zombie machines that make up the network.

Almost immediately, the spam stopped, according to M86 Security blog. Last year, the email security firm estimated the botnet was the leading source of spam until some of its servers were disabled.

This is undeniably good news—but spam, as always, will manage to make a return.


Friday, October 09

Breaking News: YouTube is Popular

By Brad

Via the New York Times comes some new information about just how popular YouTube is. You might want to sit down:

[O]n the third anniversary of its $1.65 billion deal to sell itself to Google, YouTube is saying, in a sense, you may be underestimating us. The company released more precise viewing figures than it had in the past, saying it serves more than 1 billion videos a day, or roughly 30 billion in a month.

30 billion videos a month. Wow.

As impressive as that is, however, it’s not all rosy news today for the online video giant. As Read Write Web reports, YouTube may soon face a major spamming problem:

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have recorded a mass mailing of spam emails containing a link to a video advertisement on YouTube. Although in the past, spammers have have attempted to lure people into clicking links by claiming the link would display a YouTube video, this is the first case in which the link actually did.

Video spam could be a major — and highly complicated — problem, especially given the way YouTube’s parent company Google crosses streams between both search and videos.

Friday, September 25

Welcome to Idaho, Spam Capitol of America

By Brad

A new list from the group MessageLabs ranks America’s most spammed states. Number one is Idaho, which managed to jump a staggering 43 spots in only a year due to a “resilient and aggressive botnet market.”

In second place is Kentucky, with New Jersey ranking third.

Wednesday, July 08

Spammers Getting Shorter

By Brad

Spammers may be annoying, but they’re also a highly creative bunch, able to shift tactics on the fly. Their latest move, as the New York Times “Bits” blog reports, is to use popular url shorteners to slip into your inbox:

MessageLabs, a division of Symantec, said today the presence of shortened URLs in spam had skyrocketed over the last few days and now appears in more than 2 percent of all spam.

The company says that the dozens of new URL-shortening services are allowing spammers to evade anti-spam tools that aim at Web domains known for sending spam. The services also inadvertently help spammers trick Internet users who would normally be wary of domain names like, say,

Rarely noted about spammers is the fact that they often spur innovation, as developers scramble to make their products more secure. It’s like an online Cold War, with both sides continually re-arming themselves. So while spammers will never go away, at least their presence offers some benefit. 

Wednesday, July 01

You Can’t Keep Spam Down

By Bruce Mehlman

Google has released its quarterly spam report, and for those of us—as in, all of us—who hate sifting through annoying pitches and messages and in our inboxes, the news isn’t encouraging. According to the report, spam levels were up 53% in the second quarter, with the much-welcome 70% in the wake of last November’s shutdown of the malicious McColo ISP now a distant memory.

Meanwhile, a separate report from Symantec’s MessageLabs finds that over 80 percent of spam is originally sent by non-human botnets.

Wednesday, June 10

Beyond Borders

By Brad

Forbes has an interesting profile of Ovidui-Ionut Nicola-Roman, a 23-year-old online “phishing” scammer who in March became the first foreigner extradited to the United States for cybercriminal activity:

The dismantling of the phishing scheme involving Nicola-Roman is an example of American law enforcement’s increasingly cozy relationship with foreign cybercrime investigations. Along with the 23-year-old Nicola-Roman, authorities arrested 37 other members of that cybercriminal ring last May. Those globally dispersed defendants were based in countries stretching from the U.S. to Romania to Pakistan.

Nicola-Roman has been sentenced to 50 months in prison. But with a reported 5 million Americans still being scammed online each year, he’s just a drop in the global cybercrime bucket.

Tuesday, May 12

Scamming the Scammers

By Brad

Chances are you’ve at some point received a poorly worded email from a troubled Nigerian official promising you piles of money. And while most people smartly send such missives to their junk folder, some people continue to fall for the scam.

Now, Ars Technica reports, the problem has led to a new online game that’s rising in popularity: Nigerian Scammer Baiting:

Scam baiters are the vigilante enforcers who come together to waste hours, weeks, or months of 419 scammers’ lives for nothing more than the satisfaction of knowing that they are distracting them from real victims. Though the world of 419 scams has existed since long before the Internet, people continue to fall for scammers in droves—certainly, scammers are making millions of dollars every year by promising money, goods, and romance that they never deliver on. That’s part of why scam baiting has actually become a somewhat popular pastime online, with thousands of users flocking to scam baiting forums to share stories and ideas on how to string along more scammers. And hey, why not? Most of us end up spending too much time screwing around on the Internet anyway—these folks just use that time to make scammers miserable.



Wednesday, April 15

Spam is More Than Internet Pollution

By Brad

A new study has tackled the carbon footprint of Spam. Via Slashdot:

A new study entitled ‘The Carbon Footprint of Spam’ published by ICF International and commissioned by McAfee claims that spam uses around 33 billion kilowatt hours of energy annually, which is approximately enough to power 2.4 million US homes (or roughly 3.1 million cars) for a year. They calculated that the average CO2 emission for a spam email is around 0.3 grams. Interestingly, the majority of energy usage (around 80%) comes from users viewing and deleting spam, and searching for legitimate emails within spam filters.

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