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Massive spam operation busted


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Government agencies in the U.S. and New Zealand say they have sued the people behind one of the world's largest spamming operations.

...lawsuits were filed in U.S. federal court in Illinois and New Zealand High Court in Christchurch over the past week. They describe an international spamming operation run out of New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. that sold the kinds of phony male-enhancement pills, knock-off prescription drugs, sex toys and replica watches that have gummed up e-mail inboxes for years.
Ah, all our 'favorite things'. Except sex toys? I get no spam pushing sex toys. Obviously spammers of the world are sufficiently perspicacious to realize they would be surplus to requirement. Perhaps we have underestimated the breed.

Pity these are just civil suits - locking the little deviants away would seem a remote prospect, whatever the outcome.

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Pity these are just civil suits - locking the little deviants away would seem a remote prospect, whatever the outcome.

I can't tell of these are the same folks involved, but ...

spam ring shut down

Chicago (IL) - One of the largest spam rings on the Internet lost a battle to the Federal Trade Commission today in a preliminary hearing, thus causing a Chicago court to freeze the group’s assets in an effort to shut the spam operation down.

The group used several different names, but was mainly known as HerbalKing. The organization was able to send billions of unsolicited e-mails to Internet users during the past twenty months. The group’s emails promote replica watches and various drugs among which are weight loss and male enhancement products. HerbalKing utilized a botnet, is a huge global network of computers infected with malicious software that have been infected without their owners’ knowledge.

Marshal Software aided the FTC in their investigation and estimated the botnet software used by the group was comprised of about 35,000 computers and was capable of sending 10 billion e-mail messages each day. Marshal Software estimated that in January this particular botnet was the leading source of all spam mail on the Internet.

.....

The commission requested that the federal district court in Chicago freeze the finances, claiming that the members had been utilizing both unfair and deceptive advertising methods and thus violating the Can-spam Act of 2003. This law allows for both civil and criminal penalties for spammers who falsify information in e-mail messages and then do not offer ways for consumers to unsubscribe.

The government also wants a hand in this case and is pursuing criminal charges against the group. Members of the spam gang have had search warrants served against them by the FBI.

The HerbalKing group was capable of handling their ordeals on an international level. It was shipping drugs such as Propecia, Lipitor, Celebrex, and Zoloft from India. The FTC claims that the group ran their websites from China and were processing credit cards from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and Cyprus and transferred funds between members utilizing ePassporte.

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...I can't tell of these are the same folks involved, but ...
Seems like it is. Disappointing aspects - one of the principals is a recidivist - prior actions taken against him in 2004 seem only to have spurred him on to greater efforts. The Indian pharms/remedies industry is implicated, efforts by their authorities to shut down that shameful, shamful, harmful affront to the health of the desperate seem to have been worthless. And of course
Even though this is a huge spam bust, it is rather unlikely that the overall number of spam emails will decline.
...for which there is evidence already.
...Not to metion the prverbial bar of soap...
No need for barbarity Dr. A. Several of them are Kiwis - mere sheep deprivation would be sufficient to cause them indescribable anguish (Kiwis are famous for their fondness for their flocks).
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  • 2 weeks later...

Got this via an e-mail briefing today from KnujOn:

http://www.knujon.com/news.html#10152008

A U.S. district court has ordered a halt to the operations of a vast international spam network that peddled prescription drugs and bogus male-enhancement products. The network has been identified as the largest "spam gang" in the world by the anti-spam organization Spamhaus. (...) One product called "VPXL" was touted as an herbal male-enhancement pill. Advertised as "100% herbal and safe," it supposedly caused a permanent increase in the size of a user's penis. The agency alleged that not only did the pills not work, but they were neither "100% herbal" nor "safe," because they contained sildenafil - the active ingredient in Viagra.

That's a hoot if true -- these guys were actually doping their fake pills with real drugs (and fairly consequential ones at that)! Another reason not to put anything in your mouth that passed through the hands of spammers.

These guys have been clogging my inbox for so long that I think their disappearance (if true) must be the biggest reason why my received spam volume (even at SpamCop) has of late dropped to zero most days.

-- rick

Moderator Edit: Merged this post into the existing Topic/Discussion on the same subject matter, same players.

Edited by Wazoo
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... These guys have been clogging my inbox for so long that I think their disappearance (if true) must be the biggest reason why my received spam volume (even at SpamCop) has of late dropped to zero most days. ...
Filtering Rick, I would put my money on filtering, that's really the only believable explanation. Filtering, somewhere. I can assure you the spam is still out there, court orders notwhithstanding though that might momentarily affect some small pocket of the spamiverse (but which, like 'nature', abhors a vacuum). In fact spam might have even increased in the past week, based on my experience - you know, that at the bottom-most, most populated segment, 'their' response to reduced/static revenue is to increase the spew. It's the most cost-effective weapon in their armarium and ISPs/networks do their best to make the medium, the internet 'ether', infinitely accommodating.

I've said it before - if only someone could start figuring the greenhouse emissions attributable to spamming we might actually get somewhere with spam control. Legislators can only concentrate on one thing at a time, and when the present fiscal emergency passes ... Yes, as Miss Betsy reminds us from time to time, legislation is not the solution. But it could be made to not hinder at least, and be more 'universal'.

But, yeah, it's nice when one more pack of internet despoilers-desolators gets their comeuppance. If only it would 'stick' and/or serve as deterrence, firstly for them, next for 'the rest'. Alas, not even a return to public hanging, drawing and quartering (the variety involving disembowelment and the progresssive burning of the rectally-extracted entrails before the still-living eyes of the subject of such treatment) would do that - though the up-wind section of the watching crowd might rejoice. And it would at least 'stick' WRT the processed perpetrators. Can you guess whose address just got spoofed (again) as sender in a spamrun?

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I thought we were talking about the same people, but it was too late in the evening for me to find the 'other' topic.

In this case the spammers were breaking an already existing law. And, ISTM, that many spam rings can be busted because of already existing laws. The few that operate just inside the law, like Sheets offline, may continue, but maybe not. With most ISPs not wanting spammers, it may not be worthwhile - they may prefer to buy online advertising on the 'free' email resources.

Unfortunately, phishing and some other illegal activities are too lucrative if the fish bite so they will probably continue in spite of arrests now and then. Unless the stakes are really high (like in the 419 scams), I wouldn't think it was worth it to take time to evade filters. But 419 and lottery scammers have been operating in snail mail for years - in fact, still do.

I don't know how to deal with the people whose computers get infected. Without them, wouldn't a really high percentage of spam stop? Perhaps a fine, like one for littering?

Miss Betsy

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Filtering Rick, I would put my money on filtering, that's really the only believable explanation.
Yes, my ISP has what appears to be a brutally-effective spam filter setup; the minute I turn it off I will start receiving around 100 per day (I sometimes do this just to "sample" what is out there). Ironically, this same ISP (Verizon) apparently does not have a sterling reputation with regard to spam leaving its domain, but that's another problem for another set of people I suppose.

Can you guess whose address just got spoofed (again) as sender in a spamrun?
(holding up hand) Me too. I seem to get picked on once every couple of months by a Russian outfit sending domestic Russian spam. I must've gotten myself on someone's, er, fecal list. Always gets me 20-30 bounces per run. Low-level, but annoying, like Russian Water Torture.

-- rick

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In this case the spammers were breaking an already existing law. And, ISTM, that many spam rings can be busted because of already existing laws. The few that operate just inside the law, like Sheets offline, may continue, but maybe not. With most ISPs not wanting spammers, it may not be worthwhile - they may prefer to buy online advertising on the 'free' email resources.
Yes, I think most of these guys are breaking existing laws, if only laws regarding computer subversion ("unauthorized use of protected computers" etc.).

I am guessing that indicting someone merely for "spamming" is a tough row to hoe because there is a lot of ambiguity in the term (e.g., Jaynes' conviction overturned because he was merely sending "anonymous e-mail" whatever that means). It is much easier if you can show that they are selling illegal or controlled goods, committing mail fraud or wire fraud, etc. since these are all probably far better understood by the courts.

I don't know how to deal with the people whose computers get infected. Without them, wouldn't a really high percentage of spam stop? Perhaps a fine, like one for littering?
Another rather sticky problem. Yes, maybe you could fine zombie owners if their traffic traversed a government or public resource (like the USPS) at some point, but here in the U.S. (and many other countries) most internet transmissions are handled by ISPs and common carriers, all private businesses. Some ISPs do take on the thankless task of policing up their customer's systems, thank goodness, but many others do not. Suffice it to say that there will always be a comfortably large pool of potential zombies for spammers to glom onto.

-- rick

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  • 1 year later...

Update

http://www.silobreaker.com/lance-thomas-11_29555586

http://www.spamhaus.org/news.lasso?article=649

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Herbal-King...ia-130481.shtml

The latest news being the Australian Federal Court adding to the fines imposed in the US and in New Zealand. Alas, if reported correctly, Justice Greenwood, presiding, is no ornament to his profession. "There is simply no doubt that Australian citizens find large-scale distribution of unsolicited commercial electronic messages promoting the sale of products, in the circumstances of this case, very irritating and annoying," quoth the beak. Irrelevant, even for a Supreme Court judge - it is against the freakin' law, it is either a legitimate law or it is not in terms of the Australian constitution and it does not require your endorsement as to clear and uncontested purpose.

And (supposedly) "The judge also banned him from sending unsolicited commercial email in the country for seven years." Sending UCE is already illegal in Australia you blathering idiot. Does *every* law require your personal approval before being effected? Are you anyway authorising him to then break that law after seven years? No, no, the good Justice must be misquoted, one would need to see and understand the transcripts, one or both tasks surely exceeding the capacity of the reporter.

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<snip>

Irrelevant, even for a Supreme Court judge - it is against the freakin' law, it is either a legitimate law or it is not in terms of the Australian constitution and it does not require your endorsement as to clear and uncontested purpose.

<snip>

Sending UCE is already illegal in Australia you blathering idiot. Does *every* law require your personal approval before being effected? Are you anyway authorising him to then break that law after seven years? No, no, the good Justice must be misquoted, one would need to see and understand the transcripts, one or both tasks surely exceeding the capacity of the reporter.

...Or his honour is a Yank judge who is a proponent of "judicial activism." :) <grin>
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...Or his honour is a Yank judge who is a proponent of "judicial activism." :) <grin>
We have enough activists in the High Court of Australia anyway (ref the Mabo decision). Looks like Justice Greenwood is 'only' Federal Court. Maybe he is rehearsing for a High Court role - his reported pronouncements sure sounded 'High Court'. I said "Supreme Court", that is wrong. Supreme Courts are the high courts in (some) State and Territorial jurisdictions. They are down the pecking order from, but have different functions to, the (Federal) High Court. Australia had a fairly high proportion of Irish settlers (not to mention convicts). Sometimes it shows, especially in the hot weather ... anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh :D.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Australia had a fairly high proportion of Irish settlers (not to mention convicts). Sometimes it shows, especially in the hot weather ... anois ar theacht an tsamhraidh :D.

Agus mahogany gaspipe. Your ethnic slur fails - Greenwood is a British sirname, believed to be of West Yorkshire origin.

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Agus mahogany gaspipe....
No thanks
...Your ethnic slur fails - Greenwood is a British sirname, believed to be of West Yorkshire origin.
Ah yes, you can always tell a Yorkshireman (but you can't tell him much). No, no I was not saying the good Justice was Irish, just the whole country has a touch of Irishness sometimes, as in the nomenclature whereby some 'Supreme' courts are, in real sense, subordinate to a merely "High" court. And, until relatively recent times, the whole shebang was subordinate to the Privy Council in Britain. Took me years before I found out that crowd didn't actually convene in a dunny, even so ...
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