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Ear to the Ground

Death of a Spam Network

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Posted on Mar 18, 2011
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This chart shows the level of daily spam volume from Rustock over the last few weeks.

Rustock, the world’s largest spam e-mail network, has been disabled by a coordinated action between Microsoft and the FBI, effectively reducing worldwide spam by up to a whopping 39 percent. —JCL

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, working with federal law enforcement agents, has brought down the world’s largest spam network, Rustock.

Rustock, at its peak, was a botnet of around 2 million spam-sending zombies capable of sending out 30 billion spam email per day. Microsoft’s wholesale slaughter of Rustock could reduce worldwide spam output by up to 39%.

Rustock was taken down, piece by piece, in a similar way to the Mega-D botnet. First the master controllers, the machines that send out commands to enslaved zombies, were identified. Microsoft quickly seized some of these machines located in the U.S. for further analysis, and worked with police in the Netherlands to disable some of the command structure outside of the U.S.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 19, 2011 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

I see why they had to shut it down, we can’t have unregulated propaganda running amuck.

What if someone like Assange had this ability to spam closely held secrets to the masses?

Pirate internet.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, March 18, 2011 at 9:57 pm Link to this comment

Confiscating the machines of the spammers is one thing and they
should have since the data on the machines is most likely a big
part of the problem as these machines are most likely the
residence of the zombies.  But that doesn’t mean all people’s
computers ought to be candidates for seizure.  It seems it is
limited to suspected spammers.

But no, I’ve never answered a spam not even once since it first
started. I’ve always been suspicious of emails from strange origins.
My spam checker is pretty good. It catches even mail from my cousins
and I have to retrieve them out of the junk file before trashing en mass
the pieces in the folder.  My computer learns when I move something
from Junk to Inbox.  Then the rest are sent to the trash bin and I delete
the trash folder contents forever.  But thanks for the warning.  I’ve
heard it can be a huge problem.  I’ve known for some long time about
spam targets.  I’ve been working computers since the early 80s.  The
government gets a forward of all spam or suspected spam that I get. 
A surprising number of them are in Arabic calligraphy or Chinese
characters.  I have a feeling that the government has some software
that sends up red flags if anything “of interest” shows up.  A lot of it
has to do with sending money to save some tribal chieftan or win a
trillion dollars on some nefarious moneymaking scheme.

Everyone needs to routinely dump without opening if possible all
obvious advertisements for anything that was unsolicited.  But it is still
a PIA even to have it come into the computer.  It is interesting that after
a while, it is noticeable that the spam stops.  Then months later it
starts again.  I think the spammers have a rotary set up that cycles
around periodically.

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By samosamo, March 18, 2011 at 9:51 pm Link to this comment


Or, maybe mickymousesoft wants to see how they should build
their on botnet for future projects.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 18, 2011 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous—I hope you aren’t sending email to apparent spammers.  Very little spam contains the actual email address of the sender.  Usually it’s just another target.

I too was surprised at the ‘Microsoft quickly seized’ line, but I recognize that reporters generally know little about the Internet (or anything else) and may have misunderstood whatever they were told by whatever flacks were sent to minister to their needs.  For all we know the bot-infected machines were in Microsoft’s own offices.

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By Tim Kelly, March 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No one seems to have a problem with the statement:

“Microsoft quickly seized some of these machines located in the U.S. for further analysis”

For me it was a WTF? moment.  I think breaking up these botnets is great, but corporations seizing computers is not in our best interest.

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Shenonymous's avatar

By Shenonymous, March 18, 2011 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment

Horrraaaayyyy!  I send every spam email received to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
then junk mail them after that.  Must have sent 10,000 (an
exaggeration), but still, they are a PIA.  I have a spam checker but
there are many that slither through.  We will see if they become less
or even, hopefully disappear altogether.

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