Spammers and phoney pharmacies - from www.economist.com
A great deal out there
The flow of spam is disrupted, briefly
AN OMINOUS message remains on the home-page of Spamit, once one of the world’s prolific sources of junk e-mail: “Le roi est mort! Vive le roi!”. In late October Russian investigators seized computer equipment from the apartment of Igor Gusev, who has repeatedly denied being the man behind Spamit. His whereabouts is unknown.
Spamit’s business model, by contrast, is well understood. Its closure coincided with a steep drop in global e-mail volumes. But outfits of this kind do not themselves clog in boxes. They build legal-seeming sites to take orders and credit-card information. In Spamit’s case these were mostly “Canadian” online pharmacies which in fact shipped bogus Viagra and other popular pills from China or India.
The spam itself comes from “affiliates”—groups of criminal freelancers who are paid a high commission on every sale they generate. They send the spam from “botnets”, networks of hacked personal computers. Some of these were controlled by servers hosted on McColo, a Silicon Valley firm, until internet-service providers forced it in 2008 to shut them down. That briefly cut global spam volumes in half (see chart). Armenian police last month arrested Georg Avanesov, who is alleged to have operated a botnet of nearly 30m PCs.
Such disruptions may cut spam but will not put the lucrative phoney pharmacies out of business. Last year Dmitry Samosseiko, a researcher at Sophos, which sells computer-security equipment, found that the average value of an order was $200. With such money on the table, affiliates will find new ways to get through users’ defences—and the spam king, or a suitably counterfeit version, will be back.
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