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FBI, FTC Take Down Scammers & Spammers

I was traveling to speak at a couple of conferences most of the past week, so I missed out on covering some of the bigger cyber-security justice developments to come in a long while: The FBI announced it has busted up an online bazaar for cyber thieves, working with international authorities to nab at least 56 people suspected of buying and selling stolen personal and financial data. In other news, the Federal Trade Commission convinced a judge to freeze the assets of what's being called the world's largest spam gang.

The FBI said the arrests came after investigators infiltrated DarkMarket.ws, a Web forum for cyber crooks that once boasted more than 2,500 members who were interested in buying and selling credit card data, stolen user names and passwords.

"What they didn't know was that one of the site's administrators and most respected members, who called himself Master Splyntr, was one of us -- an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated the site posing as a cyber crook," the FBI said of forum members, in a statement.

The undercover agent said he saw millions of dollars worth of stolen goods being exchanged on DarkMarket. The bureau estimates that the bust prevented more than $70 million in potential losses.

Wired.com's Kevin Poulsen has an interesting back story on this undercover operation, which was apparently almost blown two years ago when a rival forum operator fingered Master Splyntr as an undercover fed.

In a separate action, the FTC said a federal court had frozen the assets of an international spam ring (PDF) that pushed male-enhancement pills and knockoff prescription drugs.

The FTC said the online pharmacies lied about the safety of their drugs and the security of their Web site (the sites said they were using https:// when they weren't), and that they spoofed the source of the spam, most of which was sent using one of the world's largest botnets. The commission said it received more than three million complaints about spam messages connected to this junk e-mail operation.

The agency's complaint names two individuals -- Lance Atkinson, a New Zealand citizen living in Australia, and Jody Smith of Texas - and four companies they control: Inet Ventures Pty Ltd., Tango Pay Inc., Click Fusion Inc., and TwoBucks Trading Limited. Atkinson already has a rap sheet for spamming: In June 2005, the FTC obtained a $2.2 million judgment against Atkinson and another business partner for running a similar spam affiliate program that marketed herbal products.

In supplemental documents filed by the FTC, the commission alleges that Atkinson and Smith's operations generated sales of more than $500,000 monthly. Earlier this year, security company Marshal Software identified the source of the spam e-mails as the "Mega-D" botnet, which it estimated was made up of 35,000 compromised PCs and at one point was responsible for sending 32 percent of all spam.

It's not clear yet whether the enforcement actions have stemmed the tide of pill spam blasted out through Mega-D. But Joe Stewart, a senior security researcher for Atlanta-based SecureWorks, said much of the pill spam sent via Mega-D has since been replaced by junk e-mail touting Russian brides and other online dating scams.

Update, 9:44 a.m.: Speaking of spam: In an effort to cut back on the amount of spam in blog comments, washingtonpost.com is instituting a site-wide change that requires those who wish to comment to have registered on the site. No doubt, this change will discourage some readers who do not wish to go through the free registration process, and that's unfortunate. But a series of comment-spam attacks across all blogs have caused serious and unacceptable slowdowns for the site as a whole.

By Brian Krebs  |  October 22, 2008; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Cyber Justice , U.S. Government , Web Fraud 2.0  
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Comments

This is great news. Hopefully the gov't has more moles in other I'net crooks

Posted by: Richard Muller | October 22, 2008 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm OK about making commenters on this blog register. Since I am a long-time registered WaPo visitor, all I did was click the small "sign in" link, signed in dutifully guessing my PW, and I was sent to the Post's Home Page. Boy, it's a chore to find my way back here, but I made it. Since I get here every day by clicking the Security Fix link in the daily WaPo email, will I have to sign in and go through that rigamarole each time, just in order to leave my little gems now and then?

Posted by: Pete from Arlington | October 22, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

@Pete- not if you tell the browser to remember your credentials for the wapo site, it shouldn't ask you for them over and over again

Posted by: Bk | October 22, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

I use a tag name - JkR - that I prefer to my e mail address name. But I haven't figured out how to alter my name when posting in the comments section of the stories. Will that feature, - customized posting name - be an option? Or will JkR cease to exist?

Posted by: JkR | October 22, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

@JkR - you get to choose your moniker when you post the first time in the new regime, if I recall correctly. It will not be your e-mail address they post.

Posted by: grounder | October 22, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Good day!
It is very informative and has a very good quality in it.
I like it...

Self Improvement
Modern Rifle
Happy Halloween

Thank you very much for your time.

Posted by: miragana | October 22, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

where is it that i can send all my spam/can messages for someone to do something about. so many lotto winnings, benifieriers of dead people, so many loans that all want me to send them fees.
i tell them all i won't send any money, but then comes another, like they are know each other.
why can't my inbox when it decides something is spam, just send it back to the sender, and file their inbox?

Posted by: leroy f slater | October 23, 2008 3:37 AM | Report abuse

I think thats a nce piece of work
done by fbi ..
well a nce techical news and stuff
regarding cyber criminals..

i wonder if security suites help it out..

nce article above.

regards..


Posted by: http://www.eradicatespyware.net | October 23, 2008 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Although the WaPo pages say welcome (My Name), in order to post here, I had to "sign in." After doing so, I got a page showing me my User ID. After vverifying my email address, I was escorted nicely back to this page where the following comment met me at the bottom of the page: "Thanks for signing in. Your washingtonpost.com User ID, peterpallesen, will be displayed with your comment." I think this too-specific identification, which I will likely change, will keep many commenters away from your blog. Too bad, because as good as the posts are, the comments are always worth a smile or two.

Posted by: peterpallesen | October 23, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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