'Spammer Murder' Is a Hoax

Reported 'mob hit' against major spammer turns out to be one big Russian yarn



It was a great story. A Russian blogger breathlessly banged out a report yesterday saying he was translating a news story he had just seen on television. A major spammer had been gunned down in a mob-style hit.

In his blog, Alex Loonov said that Alexey Tolstokozhev had been a big-time pharmaceutical spammer, selling Viagra and other drugs via spam links to pharmacies. Some reports said Tolstokozhev was responsible for as much as 30 percent of all spam on the Internet. Others said Tolstokozhev had made as much as $2 million as a contract spammer in 2007 alone.

The report was picked up by blogs and news sites across the world (including, we're embarrassed to say, Dark Reading). Unfortunately, it now appears that none of the story is true.

A number of spam experts were confused by the story, because they had never heard of Tostokozhev, who didn't appear in any of the major spam reports. Alex Eckelberry, president and chief executive of Sunbelt Software, did some research and found out that Loonov's Website was only registered on Tuesday. None of the researchers could find a story on the hit on any Russian broadcasting station, and no law enforcement agency or spam researcher has any record of Tostokozhev's existence.

The hit, it appears, is one big folk tale. Shame on us for being so quick to buy it.

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

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