Computer Crime Research Center


The FBI is increasing its effort to investigate spammers

Date: May 31, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Ludmila Goroshko

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is increasing its effort to investigate spammers, largely in response to the new law. In an unusual arrangement, the Direct Marketing Association has paid $500,000 to hire 15 investigators who work alongside agents from the F.B.I. and other government agencies in a program known as Project Slam-Spam.

When he hunted down escaped prisoners for the United States Marshals Service, Mr. McBride learned the value of lying low until fugitives trip up, leaving small clues on their whereabouts. Now, as an investigator for Microsoft, Mr. McBride watches carefully for tidbits of data that link some of the two billion pieces of junk e-mail that Microsoft's Hotmail service receives each day with the people who send them.

Once he finds an electronic key to the spammer's identity - a real name, address or phone number - Mr. McBride uses all the tools of a regular detective: trailing suspects, subpoenaing their bank records and looking for disgruntled former associates to become informers. But first he must lift the cloak of anonymity provided by the Internet.

"The guys who do this are pretty tenacious," Mr. McBride said. "There are networks that are very well organized. But we have really started to figure out how they operate."

Spammers have been sending more junk e-mail than ever, despite a new federal antispam law that took effect Jan. 1. So far, few have been brought into court because it is hard to find them and link them to electronic offers of pills and pornography.

So the vanguard of the fight against spam has turned from software engineers who try to identify and block spam from e-mail in-boxes to investigators in private industry, like Mr. McBride, and an increasing number of prosecutors and law enforcement agents who are learning how to combine traditional detective work with cyber-sleuthing.

Using information provided by Internet providers along with their own decoy computers and e-mail accounts, these investigators have built a database of more than 100 spammers. Increasingly they are actually purchasing pills and responding to offers of get-rich-quick schemes to track down the spammers.

"Initially you start to work backwards from the e-mail and find that to be a very frustrating route," said Daniel Larkin, chief of the F.B.I.'s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the unit that is coordinating Project Slam Spam. "That doesn't lead to a live body. We have collectively realized you have to go the other way and follow the money trail."

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2005-09-01 21:43:10 - Good blog Gergana
2004-05-31 16:41:20 - Looks like its the old standard of police... Byrocat
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