Tag Archives | Spam

Companies Hacked: Track E-Mail and Avoid Spam

Another hack attack: The bad guys gained access to the database that stores customers’ names and e-mail addresses for Capital One, JPMorgan, Brookstone, BestBuy, TiVo, Walgreens, Kroger, and a long list of others.

The breach occurred through Epsilon, the firm each of the companies used to manage their e-mail communication with customers.

Chances are good that if you’ve corresponded with any of the companies, you’ll see phishing e-mails in your inbox. They’ll likely be messages for you to confirm a recent order, or reconfirm or update a credit card.

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Spammers Like “Use Facebook as Page”

Do you “like” things on Facebook? Spammers like things, too, and they’re using Facebook’s “Like” function to put their obnoxious schemes and shameless missives everywhere.

Facebook assumed they were doing Facebook Page administrators a favor when they added the option to “Use Facebook as Page.” This meant that customized Facebook pages could Like, post, and comment around the site just as regular profile users do.

It didn’t take long for spammers to realizes by using their page as a profile and “Liking” others’ pages, they could spread their message and elude the Facebook police.

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Judge Cans “Spamford”

Today, a California court awarded Facebook $711 million in civil damages against Sanford Wallace, the notorious sell proclaimed “spam king” who is also known by the derisive nickname ‘Spamford.’ The court found Wallace guilty of violating the CAN-SPAM act, and he could face time in prison if convicted.

Wallace allegedly accessed Facebook accounts without obtaining permission, and used them to make bogus wall posts and spam the account holders’  friends. Those actions run afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, which sets guidelines for commercial e-mails, which are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Wallace is best known for his e-mail marketing company Cyber Promotions, which was at one time the largest source of unsolicited e-mail in the world. In the proceeding years, another Wallace venture called SmartBOT faced FTC action for infecting computers with spyware.

Facebook believes that the judgment will help put spammers out of business. “We’re confident that today’s ruling will act as a powerful deterrent against those who would abuse Facebook and its users,” spokesperson Simon Axten said in a statement to the press.

I’d ask Wallace for comment, but I’m hesitant to offer him my e-mail address. Once again, he’s proven himself to be a real class act.


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Botnets Account For 83% of Spam

montypythonspamSpam is still a problem, but its becoming increasingly centralized — which could make its eradication that much more easier if those battling it play their cards right. Research firm MessageLabs reported Monday that 83.2 percent of all spam originates from Botnets.

To refresh your memory, a botnet is a group of computers running distributed software to perform tasks such as sending spam or distributing malware. Using botnets for spam could be blamed for the marked increase in spam itself: it now accounts for over 90 percent of all e-mail.

These systems not only send mail directly, but have also figured out ways to spam through webmail services, which end up making the messages look more legitimate.

MessageLabs has put a list together of the biggest spammers, and found the biggest target is “Cutwail,” which contributes 45% of all spam. Shutting down a network like that would obviously diminish considerably the amount of spam being sent out.

Indeed, this network was affected by a shutdown of its ISP, but was able to bounce back within hours. The firm says this shows spammers are also becoming more sophisticated in building these networks, ensuring they have backup systems to keep it running.

Other statistics found as part of the study indicated that one out of every 269 emails contained a virus in June. Likewise, one in 280 emails contained a phishing attack.


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Spam, Wonderful Spam

montypythonspamSymantec arm MessageLabs reports that 90 percent of all e-mail traffic is spam, up signficantly from the 58% just six months ago.

At that time, anti-spam efforts had reached their peak, along with the convictions and shutdowns of several major spam rings. However, since that time, spammers have regrouped and pushed spam levels to their highest in at least four years.

Even worse? Spam has shot up 5% in just the past month. Whatever these criminals have done, its certainly working very well. Thanks to the lovely anti-spam efforts of Google Apps and Gmail, I haven’t noticed any difference, but I’m sure those less fortunate probably have.

…. Spam, lovely Spam, wonderful Spam ….

Other findings include new efforts by cybercriminals to use established websites to host malware. Such a strategy would make sense, considering how much easier it would be for these folks to spread their wares. They also seem to be working on US schedules, evident by its peak between 9 and 10am, with a drop off overnight.

And if you think CAPTCHA is saving you (or these providers), think again. Spammers and malware purveyors are now making use of CAPTCHA crackers, meaning this line of defense is becoming increasingly useless.


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Car-Warranty Robocallers: The Jig is Up. Finally.

I don’t claim to be an expert on religious theory, but I am reasonably confident that there’s a special circle in Hell reserved for the sleazeballs behind those automated cell-phone calls that attempt to trick you into thinking that your car warranty is about to expire as an excuse to sell you a new extended warranty.

I’ve lost track of how many of them I’ve received, but my blood pressure shoots up every time I answer my phone and discover that it’s not only a robocall, but a lying, cheating robocall. (They’re dialing randomly, of course: My car warranty lapsed long ago, and I’ve heard from friends who don’t have drivers’ licenses who get these spamcalls.) To make matters worse, some of the calls are not from warranty peddlers, but rather from identity thieves.

So it’s heartening to hear (via Daring Fireball) that the FTC is finally cracking down on two companies behind the scam. I don’t, however, understand why it took so long for the agency to take action when this has been going on for eons, or why it’s apparently responding to the fact that New York Senator Charles Schumer received a warranty robocall last week. Thirty thousand Americans who hold no elective office had already griped about the calls–I woulda hoped that the FTC would have stepped in by the time, oh, let’s say the five thousandth complaint had been lodged.

If thirty thousand people were moved to file complaints, who knows how many have received the calls? The two companies the FTC is acting against apparently made $10 million in ill-gotten gains, but their biggest crime may have been wasting untold thousands of hours of time of the people who received the calls and had to listen to ’em. Even those who, like me, got really good at hanging up three or four words into the recorded scam.


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Five Web Services You've Got to Try

Steve Bass's TechBiteJunk and clutter: It’s the blaring banner ads and annoying boxes that slide across the screen that are ruining the Web. I avoid it all with a smart ad blocker–Ad Muncher, a miraculous tool.

But there’s still a problem.

Web pages aren’t designed for reading, and that’s one of my pleasures: Reading product and movie reviews, for instance, or devouring John McPhee’s lengthy pieces in The New Yorker, or James Fallows (read his old, but still valuable What Was I Thinking? in The Atlantic).

Up until now, I’d click the Print button if the site offered one. Then I discovered Readability, a site that reformats any page of text to conform to your reading style. Set up Readability by choosing a style, font size, and margin width, and then drag the Readability bookmarklet to your browser’s toolbar. The next time you’re on a Web page you want to read, click the Readability link and the transformation happens immediately. (You can get a better idea by watching the video.)

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Microsoft’s Photosynth: Hard Work, Cool Results

You know it’s a quiet day in tech when the big news involves Jerry Seinfeld. I’ve already covered that, um, bombshell–so let’s move onto other developments, starting with a surprisingly inventive Microsoft Web app.
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