Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2007: A Very Bad Year For Illegal Spammers

2007 is winding down, and I thought I'd take a moment to list just how many big achievements were met by the dedicated research and hard work of all the members of the numerous anti-spam forums such as KillSpammers and CastleCops, and organizations such as SpamHaus, the FBI Cybercrime Division, the i-Law Group, IronPort, SecureWorks, Shadowserver, F-Secure and countless others. Just look at how many large-scale arrests, convictions, and media stories regarding cybercrime and illegal spamming came about in the past twelve months.

In this synopsis I will make reference to several key members of what once was the Kill Spammers forum which was DDOS'd out of existence in August, 2007. The loss of that forum has absolutely not diminished or impeded the continued efforts of its members, all of whom continue to investigate and report all manner of illegal spamming, server hijacking and botnet operation. If anything it's only lead to more and more of us banding together via other means.

Make yourself some hot chocolate and join me in a look back at 2007, the worst year so far for any illegal spammers out there.

January 2007:


  • Chris "Rizler" Smith is sentenced to 30 years in prison for drug trafficking, witness tampering and illegal spamming practices.

  • Many members of the KillSpammers forum report on an illegal / fake charity known as "Save Childs". It appears to be related to a spate of spam for both Discount Pharmacy (Vincent Chan) and My Canadian Pharmacy (Yambo.) After reporting their multiple spammed addresses to law enforcement agencies and hosting companies, all of the sites are eventually shut down.



February 2007:


  • Spaminator creates the spamwiki. SiL creates a lengthy report on My Canadian Pharmacy based on a lengthier report which was already widely cirulated to many security companies and law enforcement agencies around the world. Red Dwarf writes and updates numerous sections. A crucial tool for collecting and exposing evidence is made. Law Enforcement and Spamhaus eventually take notice.



March 2007:


  • The Vancouver Sun (among many others) publishes a story about the death of Marcia Bergeron of Quadra Island, BC due to fake drugs purchased from a spamvertised source

  • SiL begins performing research on the Yambo sites in assistance of the i-law group (Jon Praed) and IronPort (Patrick Peterson.) His research and other data are eventually used in a web seminar covering the a-z of the My Canadian Pharmacy spam group (Yambo Financials) including an indepth look at their supply chain processes, message dissemination, botnet size and implementation, and server hijacks.

  • The SEC suspends trading on 35 spamvertised stock symbols in Operation Spamalot. 14 of the stocks are tracable to Vancouver stock traders. International law enforcement is given huge amounts of data on these companies and the illicit trading manipulation that took place.



April 2007:


  • After being inundated with spam for Discount Pharmacy, SiL decides to write a synopsis about their known functionality and operations. AlphaCentauri and Red Dwarf assist greatly.

  • ILoveCrapfloods creates FsckChickenboners! (a bot for crapflooding spammers' forms) It slowly gains a following and is refined and modified throughout the year, sending thousands of fake orders to illegal pharmacy and replica watch sites, resulting in wasted time and lost profits for several illegally promoted websites selling counterfeit products.



May 2007:


  • Renowned bulkerforum member and proxy reseller mcproxy retires from the spam and proxy reselling business after nearly having his personal data exposed by spam-court.com. This indicates that the research posted on that blog is very much on the right track and leads to a lot of illegal DDOS activity against that site on behalf of members of BulkerForum.

  • Notorious repeat spammer Robert Alan Soloway is arrested in Seattle after a federal grand jury indicts him on 35 charges ranging from wire fraud to identity theft. The lawsuit against him is ongoing and he remains in prison in Seattle pending commencement of the trial.

  • The country of Estonia has its entire computer infrastructure come under a massive DDOS attack. Everything from train schedules to utilities and banking is completely knocked off the grid for several days. The investigation into this attack is still ongoing and thought to lead to Russian and Ukranian sources. Several rumors floated around at this time that the Russian government itself was behind these attacks. None of this has been proven. This event has the effect of raising the awareness of DDOS attacks and the criminal groups behind them.



June 2007:


  • SiL posts a lengthy description of the illegal activities of Nick Danger / Marion Lynn to the newsgroup NANAE.

  • AlphaCentauri and SiL begin a coordinated series of reports regarding the Discount Pharmacy hijack of Windows 2000 / 2003 servers. This results in the eventual shut down (or cleanup) of several hundred hijacked servers and a great deal more data on the hijacking process for Windows servers on behalf of Vincent Chan. We eventually see a complete stop in any spam runs for this spamvertised product line around August of 2007.

  • Darrel and Jack Uselton are arrested for "hijacking personal computers across the country to send mass e-mails and inflate prices on at least 13 stocks."



July 2007:


  • SiL is interviewed in Forbes Magazine for an article about Patrick Peterson from Ironport Systems. The article covers Peterson's investigation of the My Canadian Pharmacy operation, run by Yambo Financials.

  • E360 files numerous motions against Spamhaus for labelling them as spammers. All of these charges would later be either withdrawn or dismissed.

  • The FBI's Operation Bot Roast identifies over one million computers as being under the control of illegal botnets. This is the first of two such investigations which later results in several arrests directly related to illegal hacking and owning or operating botnets generally.



August 2007:


  • Several anti-spam and anti-fraud websites come under a huge, unrelenting DDOS attack. Sites attacked include the Kill Spammers forum (whose domain has remained down since then,) CastleCops, 419eater, thescambaiter, and countless others. Kill Spammers operator KyferEz mitigates the attack on the KS forum to the best of his abilities, but the domain eventually folds. Several of us take up temporary residence in CastleCops (many of us stay active there also.) The criminals behind these attacks idiotically think this will slow us down.

  • In what is arguably one of the bigger blows against spammers everywhere, Red Dwarf introduces his diabolical Complainterator™ application for the automated reporting of illegally hosted domains. Over the next several months, several people start using it and it undergoes numerous upgrades and improvements. Use of this tool leads to even some of the more highly unresponsive domain registrars taking notice and removing several thousand offensive domains from their registries.

  • Members of the CastleCops Phishing Incident Reporting and Termination Squad (PIRT) as well as their other Termination Squads for spam (SIRT) and malware (MIRT) begin joining the KillSpammers forum.

  • Red Dwarf releases the AutoSA application for automated reporting of malware phishing and spamming sites to Site Advisor. He inevitably gets several other sites to provide extended services for users of this tool, notably dnsstuff.



September 2007:


  • Red Dwarf begins automating a method of monitoring, researching, collating and ultimately reporting the existence of hijacked PC's using what would eventually become the Botnet scanner. Over a few months he single-handedly reports several tens of thousands of infected IP's, resulting in more of a significant response from ISP's than most of us probably expected.



October 2007:


  • Several news stories from October to November 2007 track the Russian Business Network (RBN), exposing its ties to Russian politicians, their multiple shifts in locations from Russia to China to disappearing completely, and interviewing its so-called representative.

  • Porn spammers Jeffrey Kilbride and James Schaffer are sentenced to five years in prison, convicted of "conspiracy, money laundering, fraud, and transportation of obscene materials".

  • Greg King, 21, of Fairfield California is arrested for performing a DDOS attack on CastleCops in February of 2006. He faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a $250,000 (USD) fine.



November 2007:


  • Spaminator creates numerous international domains for the spam wiki and attempts (where possible) to get several large-scale sections of it translated and duplicated into these mirror sites. This proves to be very helpful in its use as evidence against illegal spam operations, and leads to big changes at several previously spammer-friendly domain registrars.

  • Marion Lynn creates a blog (spamgossip.blogspot.com) which exposes the identity of several known, high-level spammers who were members of bulkerforum.biz, including Phantom (Norman Holmes), Lizza (Steve Joseph), Dollar (Christopher Brown) Dave (David Oleg Barsky), bigjohnson (Igor Shaposhnikov) and others. Notable omissions are Crypto and moneyminters. It's unclear what prompted this sudden need to tell the world about the identity of these spammers, but he did it. SiL works with members of Spamhaus in collecting whatever is posted on spamgossip and sending it back to them (and law enforcement), and correlating it to the already massive amount of collected information on the members of bulkerforum.biz.

  • While we're at it: several other members of bulkerforum.biz begin exposing each other in a spate of scammer outcries on the forum. We didn't even have to do anything.

  • SiL transcribes a lot of the content from the spamgossip blog into his own blog (which you are now reading) which has the curious effect of reaching higher page ranks than Marion's blog. Marion later takes down quite a bit of personal data without any explanation.

  • Jason Michael Downey is arrested for running a botnet consisting of 6,000 compromised PC's.

  • New Zealand law enforcement break up a major international botnet and arrest its ringleader.



December 2007:


  • The FBI's Operation Bot Roast II results in the arrests of 8 individuals who owned or operated large-scale criminal botnets.

  • Secureworks investigates spamming runs in relation to US presidential candidate Ron Paul and discovers a connection with known porn spammer and botnet operator "nenastnyj", aka Andrew Nenastnyj, known on bulkerforum as "Nena".

  • Justin Daniel Medlin is sentenced to 72 months in prison in connection with pump-and-dump stock spam runs he committed during 2004.

  • Akhil Bansal is sentenced to thirty years in prison for illegally distributing medications without any prescription. This followed a lengthy investigation dubbed "Operation Cyberchase", documented in a multi-part investigative series in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

  • BBC 4's "The Investigation" do some digging into the group behind the rampant spam for "Elite Herbals", leading to a very thorough investigation of GenBucks, Tulip Lab, and one of their spammers, Shane Atkinson. Burgeoning illegal spam blog Spam In My Inbox is also consulted for this story, and much of his evidence matches that of the BBC. This eventually leads to a police raid in Christchurch, New Zealand, resulting in the seizure of "22 computers and boxes of documents from four Christchurch addresses", including that of Atkinson.



Definitely a very active year for people who fight online crime in all its facets, and absolutely a very bad year for illegal spammers.

This kind of activity will only continue. As long as people like myself continue to be on the receiving end of unwanted illegal spam from asshole criminals like the ones listed above, we'll continue to do everything we can to get to the bottom of it. There is a difference between general commercial email, and spam for products that are illicit, fake, counterfeit, or outright illegal - and in some cases lethal. We are not going to stand for this any longer, and this year's numerous arrests prove that.

SiL / IKS / concerned citizen

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sil and all other antispammers,
I wish you a nice christmas and a happy new year.

Sue W said...

Yah...keep it up guys! It's a noble cause!