Spam and Phishing News Roundup - Spammers Get Service Providers
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I guess it makes sense that there would be people making money off of spammers by finding ways to help them spam better. Some sell mailing lists of email addresses. Others sell email harvesting software. Still others sell software that automates the sending of spam in the first place (how else could they churn out so much junk in such a short period of time?). But the latest service out of the pike hits at free web hosts in a way that’s hard to combat.
Spammers have used free web hosting services for a long time to get around email filters. Security vendor McAfee recently discovered that some spammers were selling these free web pages to other spammers. According to Nick Kelly, writing in McAfee’s Avert Labs blog, the spammers who know how to take advantage of free web hosting sites “in an automated or bulk manner” have been turning a profit by charging $25 a week for 50 web hosting accounts.
Spammers purchase these accounts and then use them to redirect web traffic to spam sites that would normally be flagged. The providers of the accounts stay one step ahead of the web hosts; they “can update the redirects, so that when the final spam web pages are taken down by the ISPs, web hosts, or domain resellers, the redirects can be updated to link to another live spam web site,” explains Kelly. Spammers like using large, free web hosting providers because they have a lot of legitimate users, and are therefore unlikely to get blacklisted.
So far it appears to be a losing battle. Adam O’Donnell, senior research scientist with email filtering company Cloudmark, notes that “[Spammers] will gain more hosts for their pages than the company is able to take down.” To support that statement, he notes some statistics: in late June, his company’s researchers were seeing about 1,500 fake URLs on any one day on one particularly abused free web hosting service. The next month, that number had more than doubled, to 3,500.
All is not lost, however. Some web hosting companies have been trying to solve the problem by working with security firms. Cloudmark is one; so is McAfee. Kelly stated that “After some discussions we started sending data to one of the larger free hosting providers about accounts seen in our vast network of spam traps. Within about an hour, they had regularly confirmed our data and taken down the accounts. This relationship has cut the abuse observed by us on that provider by over 90% in just over a week.”
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