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Perimeter

11/13/2008
03:54 PM
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My Spammers Didn't Get the Memo That They Were Toast

It has been a week that seemed like the good guys might finally be winning -- something -- in the cybercrime war. First, there were reports of a 65-plus percent drop in spam volume after a Web hosting firm known for hosting botnets, spammers, and child pornography was taken down. Then the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Wednesday finally

It has been a week that seemed like the good guys might finally be winning -- something -- in the cybercrime war. First, there were reports of a 65-plus percent drop in spam volume after a Web hosting firm known for hosting botnets, spammers, and child pornography was taken down. Then the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Wednesday finally terminated domain hosting provider EstDomains, which is notorious for harboring spammers and malware writers.

But I'm having trouble celebrating.That's because a few minutes ago, I received an e-card greeting from none other than "root." (I've gotten so much spam from "root" that I think he/she may now be in my contacts list.) And an inordinate amount of spam has been slipping past both my company's filter and my junk mail filter during the past few days. Yesterday, I even received my first sophisticated phishing email -- purportedly from my 401K provider.

Apparently, no one told my spammers, phishers, and botnet herders that the jig was up.

Now, I know better than to get my hopes up, even with security and antispam experts this week breathlessly reporting record dips in worldwide spam volumes just after McColo went dark. I haven't taken an account today on pharma spam sent to our message board to see if EstDomains' demise has made a difference. Maybe my spammers and bot herders don't run off McColo or EstDomains.

We've been down this road before. Think of the multiple "spam kings" who have been busted by law enforcement. Did you notice any difference in spam volumes during those high-profile arrests? The reality is that spammers, sketchy registrars, and botnet operators are known for their agility in relocating and setting up shop elsewhere once they're found out. We may get a breather where we can toast the death of one cybercrime operation, or enjoy a little less spam for lunch (some of us, anyway), but this is a battle that likely will never truly be won.

But, in the meantime, if you're one of the lucky ones with a cleaner inbox or email server, bask in it while you can. As Chris Barton, a research scientist at McAfee, blogged today: "Enjoy the lower load averages while they last..."

- Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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