Computer Crime Research Center

2003 year - the beginning of a new civil cyberwar

Date: February 02, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Anna Mayorova

Many of us are in for personal participation in fighting spam in 2004 year.

A year ago Eugeny Kaspersky (the founder of Kaspersky Antivirus Labs) foretold quick disturbance of coherency of the Internet. Everything turned out right, though his anxiety was ponderable. Simultaneously with the drama of “Nord-Ost” in the fall 2003 there was impressive hacker attack on servers responsible for intercontinental traffic of the Internet. This attack remained almost unnoticed in Russia because of “Nord-Ost” episode.

In the last year hackers and virusmakers did not justify our worst expectations. The most dangerous epidemic of ordinary worm (known as “Sobig”) has slowed traffic for several days and, as usual, has brought hundreds million dollars of direct losses to the companies. However it did not become a fatal threat. Virus “I love you” will probably remain matchless historical example of senseless harm.

Nevertheless troubles never come singly. Spam, mass dispatch through e-mail of non-industrial advertisement has appeared. On the first sight it is rather harmless phenomenon represents a product of crossing of hacker and virus technologies.

The idea of “I love you” was in compelling by fraud to open a letter containing a virus. Three words in “subject” field operating with the principal instinct of the naive user became extremely efficient. Spammers hit the same target. Their goal is not destructive at all. The only thing they need is only to make users read about “New Year show tickets delivery” or “favourable Viagra offer”. Spam is impossible without hacker tricks: “advanced” spammer thought uses flaws of computer systems, carelessness of postmasters and Trojans for mass mail distribution.

The saddest thing here is that spam is well paid. That’s the difference between spammer and virusmaker. It is equal to the difference between an organized criminal and usual hooligan. We shall not expect a final glorious victory over spam in foreseeable future.

A separate user still does not suspect any fails in mail filtering systems that lead to the loss of letters. Moreover in Russia, spam has many woe admirers that consider the “black” advertisement market to be a benefit for small business.

Spam nowadays has exceeded the half of the total volume of e-mail, but it still remains a subject of troubles only for Internet service providers and free e-mail services staff. They wage a war against spammers one by one. ISP cooperation exists owing to mutual “black-lists” of spam addresses. But these lists became a double-edged and dangerous weapon. Also accidental placing in this list (by slander of competitors) may lead to more serious problems of ISP business, even to its break.

China became the Internet outlaw. Though it is a top country in number of the Internet users. Their servers are mailing spam so intensively so spam blocking became a standard service offer of ISPs.

Only a half year ago it was impossible to get any information on the methods of combating spam from Russian ISPs. Today they share this information less or more willingly, moreover detailed description of the offered antispam services became compulsory item in attracting client, though it is not for usual consumer. Dedicated to this problem pages on official sites of “Yandex” or “Caravan” ISP illustrate this situation. Nevertheless we should learn manuals: this year many of us will take part in fighting spam.

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