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Tilting at Windmills

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May 31, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

SPAM....Here's some good news:

A 27-year-old man described as one of the world's most prolific spammers was arrested Wednesday, and federal authorities said computer users across the Web could notice a decrease in the amount of junk e-mail.

Robert Alan Soloway is accused of using networks of compromised "zombie" computers to send out millions upon millions of spam e-mails.

....A federal grand jury last week returned a 35-count indictment against Soloway charging him with mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering....Soloway could face decades in prison, though prosecutors said they have not calculated what guideline sentencing range he might face.

I don't have anything interesting to say about this. But it sure makes me happy, happy, happy!

Kevin Drum 4:34 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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Comments

Well, it's not Dick Cheney, but....

Posted by: Keith G on May 31, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

If the guy is guilty as charged, then it's great news that they've busted him. But there are plenty of other spammers out there, and interrupting one guy isn't going to make much of a dent, just like one drug bust, however large, never makes a significant difference.

However, those of you out there who run Windows and have a high-speed connection can help us all by making sure that you are not a spammer. Most spam these days is sent by "bots", that is, by malware that infects large numbers of PCs. Modern spammers are criminals, who take over armies of computers all over the world with viruses, and who then use those machines to send spam, or to launch denial-of-service attacks (extortion is often involved).

So, if your computer seems sluggish, and seems to be crunching away when you think nothing's running (and it's not doing an automatic update or something like that), you might be a spammer; get your machine disinfected.

Posted by: Joe Buck on May 31, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

That reminds me of Zelig being charged with "bigamy, adultery, automobile accidents, plagiarism, household damages, negligence, property damages, and performing unnecessary dental extractions."

Posted by: librarian on May 31, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Spam Emails Continue, Even with Soloway’s Arrest!

Soloway has been arrested, which is a good thing, and could face several decades in prison, but it doesn’t seem that the amount of spam e-mails is going to change.  In fact, IronPort said that they reported 70 billion spam messages in a 24 hour period, which is unchanged from two weeks ago.  They also said that the volume of spam has doubled since May of 2006.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on May 31, 2007 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

A 27-year-old man described as one of the world's most prolific spammers was arrested Wednesday,

*yawn*

I suppose we should be glad that he wasn't described as the third highest al Qaeda operative....

Posted by: Disputo on May 31, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

It's just whack-a-mole. Once this guy is out another will pop up to take his place.

Spam isn't a function of some finite number of bad guys; instead it's about the fact that the internet is a scaled-up version of a system that was conceived at a time that, in the initial tiny networks, social pressure was sufficient to discourage predatory behavior like spamming. But these days, with the whole world online, there's an inexhaustible supply of bad actors willing to exploit any loophole. And with the virtual obliteration of national borders in cyberspace, no single country can hope to do much legally about the problem - the spammers just move offshore.

I'm not technical enough to understand the details, but I should think that the only real way to defeat spam would involve making it both possible and convenient for email recipients to positively identify all email senders. Unidentified emails would simply be discarded.

Barring that, it's an endless arms race with all the effort poured into either creating or stopping spam simply wasted (along with the large majority of mail bandwidth).

Posted by: jimBOB on May 31, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

3 minutes! That's like a week's vacation in blog time.

Posted by: Flamethrower on May 31, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose we should be glad that he wasn't described as the third highest al Qaeda operative....
Posted by: Disputo on May 31, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, he's like the third biggest spammer, with ties to the #1 and #2 organizations (and by ties - I mean, they get some of their botnet code from the same place).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 31, 2007 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not technical enough to understand the details, but I should think that the only real way to defeat spam would involve making it both possible and convenient for email recipients to positively identify all email senders.
Posted by: jimBOB on May 31, 2007 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

True - that would pretty much stop all spam. And all anonymity and privacy as well. But the real problem is, as you say; you're not technical enough to understand the details. And neither are 99.999% of the other email users out there. Such technology exists. It's called PGP (or GnuPG). If everybody used it, there would be no spam. But if everybody used it - computer professionals would make no money because everybody would be the equivalent of a PhD in Computer Science. (Of course, I'm exaggerating. But using encryption on email *is* not for everyone - unfortunately - until some popular service provider embeds it into their client, with an easy-to-use UI, and makes it mandatory - such a provider probably wouldn't stay popular for long. People want convenience, and at least the illusion of privacy. That's what they use computers for.).

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 31, 2007 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

Is it too late to change my opinion of the death penalty?

Posted by: Layne on May 31, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not technical enough to understand the details, but I should think that the only real way to defeat spam would involve making it both possible and convenient for email recipients to positively identify all email senders.

It's not all that hard now. The only problem is virtually no one is adopting the technology on the receiving end because virtually no one has yet done so on the sending end, and vice versa.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 31, 2007 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK
True - that would pretty much stop all spam. And all anonymity and privacy as well.

So? A verification system usable by the recipient doesn't have to be usable by a third-party, so it only makes your reliably identifiable to the recipient.

Now, how many people want to receive email from unaccountable parties?

Posted by: cmdicely on May 31, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Now, how many people want to receive email from unaccountable parties?
Posted by: cmdicely on May 31, 2007 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Police; anonymous tipsters.
Folks looking for love in all the wrong namespaces.

etc.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 31, 2007 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

osama and cmdicely

I'm aware of PGP and even have looked at it; basically I remember being kind of baffled. Still, I don't see why the basic functions have to be that hard to use. In any case I'm thinking of something more along the lines of something built into the basic architecture of the data transfer system rather than an add-on to be optionally added by end-users.

It's true that a system of this type would eliminate, or at least heavily discourage, anonymity. OTOH as I look through my email boxes (both for sent and received email), I can't see a single message that would have benefited from anonymity. Anyway, for that sort of thing you could use remailers, even in an ID-required system.

Posted by: jimBOB on May 31, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

But there's this woman in Senegal, and I think she really loves me 'cuz she's willing to trust me with millions of dollars. Will I never hear from her again?

Posted by: thersites on May 31, 2007 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

Wait, how am I going to find out about Vi@gr@ge1 now?

Posted by: Aaron on May 31, 2007 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly I'm deeply suspicious of any efforts - even in good faith - to curb spam through registration/verification means. I think the freedom represented by the relative anonymity of the internet is an incredibly democratizing and liberating force that we mess with at our peril.

Posted by: Tim P. on May 31, 2007 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

All day long I've been getting love letters from Fuck Hard. Why is this person not named Fuccchhard or fuc hrrrd or fuc k har6? I can't keep up with you people.

Posted by: shortstop on May 31, 2007 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

All day long I've been getting love letters from Fuck Hard. Why is this person not named Fuccchhard or fuc hrrrd or fuc k har6? I can't keep up with you people.

Posted by: shortstop on May 31, 2007 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently the double posting bug has not yet been fixed.

Posted by: Disputo on May 31, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

the relative anonymity of the internet is an incredibly democratizing and liberating force

Since the revelations about NSA and the utter disregard for the FISA law, I've operated under the assumption that anything and everything that goes out over any section of the internet (email, chat, blog comments etc.) gets intercepted and stored in a government database. "The relative anonymity of the internet" is illusory, IMHO.

Posted by: jimBOB on May 31, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

Tim P.: "I think the freedom represented by the relative anonymity of the internet is an incredibly democratizing and liberating force that we mess with at our peril."

Someone here please remind me to forward to the liberated, freedom-loving Tim P. all the spam e-mail messages I receive daily about online banking, cheap air fares, life insurance, penis enhancement, breast enlargment and "Asian girls who want to meet you now!"

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on May 31, 2007 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I think maybe the double posting happens because when you click on "Post" nothing seems to happen for quite a while and you start asking yourself "did I really click on it?" Maybe some people click again.

But then, that's just a theory, kind of like Evolution or Gravity.

Posted by: thersites on May 31, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry. I was going to say sorry earlier, but nothing improves a double post like a follow-up post apologizing for the duplicate post.

Posted by: shortstop on May 31, 2007 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

Some organization`s servers that I am responsible for noticed a drop off in volume of spam mail about 10-12 days ago and it continues...

The organization is in the local area of this now captured operator

I`m hoping the two events are related

“…When the greedy realize that half a dollar is better than a whole dime, conflicts will end.” - Petrocelli.firedoglake.com

Posted by: daCascadian on May 31, 2007 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

So, if your computer seems sluggish, and seems to be crunching away when you think nothing's running (and it's not doing an automatic update or something like that), you might be a spammer; get your machine disinfected.
Mass mailing spam is one of the more benign tasks a computer member of a botnet might be assigned. Think serving up illegal pornography, or denial of service attacks against people/institutions who might get mad, or doing the scans of other computers on the internet to help build a bigger botnet, or ...

Posted by: Bill Arnold on May 31, 2007 at 7:57 PM | PERMALINK

Did this guy use Yahoo accounts from Japan? If not, my spam continues.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on May 31, 2007 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Then I knew (I knew, I knew, I knew)
She could make me happy (happy, happy)

Since Kevin's inflicted this earworm on me, I thought I'd just pass it along.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist (formerly RT) on May 31, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Grate newss! This could now make you're penis and/or breasts grow largger overnite!

Posted by: Kenji on May 31, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

And now for something more somber:


The Cost of War

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on May 31, 2007 at 10:49 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know which is worse, spamming people with unwanted email or spraming them with TB germs.

Posted by: Neil B. on May 31, 2007 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

My Name is Mbano Wanaga.
This mail may come to you as a surprise base on the fact that, we have not met .I got your contact from a directory in search for a reliable personality that could understand our situation to help us.
I am a Zimbabwe citizen presently taking refugee in GHANA. Due to crises in my country coupled with the assassination of my late father MR Desmond Wanaga
who was killed by PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE war veteran association who are calling for the white collection of farm land from all white settlers which is wrong.

My father due to his stand over these issues fell out with the ruling party of PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE. Now myself and my kid sister and my mother had to flee
from our country to find refuge here in GHANA. Before the death of my father he was a major dealer of Diamond and Merchandise .
He secretly moved these funds acquired from various sales in a trunk-box and deposited it in a security deposit company in Ghana. But at the time of deposit
he told the security company that it is family valuables that are contained in the TWO (2)trunkboxes.
The total amount contained in the boxes is $20 MILLION USD. unknowingly to the security company. We need a trust worthy and experience person that will help us to invest this money in your country and take us as one family and will also buy a house for us over there where we can live safely.

We are prepared to give you 20% of the money for that assistance. We are expecting to hear from you. waiting you for your anticipated cooperation.
Should you be interested please send me your,
1,Full names,
2,private Telephone and Fax number.
3,current residential address,
AND YOU CAN READ FROM THE WEBSITE ABOUT THE PROBLEMS IN ZIMBABWE.
http://www.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/africa/05/03/zimbabwe.01/index.html
And I will prefer you reach me on my private email address below:
(mbano _wanaga_ ga@yahoo.com) and finally after that I shall provide you with more details of this operation.

Best Regards,
Mbano Wanaga,
FROM THE FAMILY

Posted by: Mbano Wanaga on May 31, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK
Should you be interested please send me your, 1,Full names, 2,private Telephone and Fax number. 3,current residential address,

Won't you also need my Social Security number, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers, like that fella from South Africa?

Posted by: Gomer on June 1, 2007 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

Here is the latest one I have received:

Here is the latest one I have received:

Hello,Hello,

We are retired couples with a beautiful female pug to live out our lives with and our female pug got with our neighbours pug dog by accident.

She now has 7 pug puppies about 12 weeks old, we are giving them out to a rescue group or individual who can take them and give them a permamnet loving homes.

We are not breeders and so we would not sell out the puppies, we are giving it out for them to have a good home just like their mother. If you are interested in having them, i want you to get back to me with your full name and address .

Please if you know that you are not going to take very good care of my babies do not reply me because i am only giving them out because we cannot take care of them.
Pictures are available on demand.

Await your response,

Have a great Day.

Mrs.Rita Newman

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on June 1, 2007 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.hainan365.com

Posted by: china on June 1, 2007 at 1:31 AM | PERMALINK

Apparently a lot of people have been taken in by the "puppies" scam. The local news even did a story on it.

Posted by: Disputo on June 1, 2007 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

But where will I get my Viagra now?

Posted by: craigie on June 1, 2007 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

craigie,

Don't know the 1-800 number, but, I believe there a website named Dole.cum - Try that.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 1, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of Viagra, and when aren't we, a friend reminded me last night about old Rush and his Viagra-reinforced trip to the DR. There is something triply obscene about someone who goes on a sex trip to exploit the locals--possibly local children--and has to be medically propped up to complete said exploitation. Really, I'm surprised the Dominicans didn't kill the revolting bastard.

Posted by: shortstop on June 1, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Mmmmm...Spam.

Posted by: Homer Simpson on June 1, 2007 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK


I'm not technical enough to understand the details, but I should think that the only real way to defeat spam would involve making it both possible and convenient for email recipients to positively identify all email senders. Unidentified emails would simply be discarded.

There is Sender Policy Framework (http://www.openspf.org/) which is a way of verifying that email is from a legitimate sender. Since in most spam messages have a bogus from address, SPF verifies that the from field matches the sending machine. The downside is that ISPs have to publish who is a legitimate sender for their domain and enforce it on incoming email. Also, you'd need a critical mass of ISPs using it to be effective. The upside is that individual users don't need to do anything.

Posted by: Jeff R. on June 1, 2007 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Let's charge a 'ha-penny or so for each email anyone sends ... Which would stop most simple spam, but not this creep's kind of trick operation using hijacked computers, of course ...

Posted by: Neil B. on June 2, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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