Spam Nation | Brian Krebs

Summary of: Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime — from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door
By: Brian Krebs

Introduction

In a world where spam emails flood our inboxes daily, it’s essential to understand where they come from and their potential impact on our lives. In the book ‘Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime — from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door’, author Brian Krebs takes us on a journey into the dark world of organized cybercrime. He reveals how spam emails can carry viruses and malware, sometimes turning our computers into ‘botnets’ used for various cybercrimes. The book also delves into the lives and operations of some of the most notorious cybercriminals and the rivalries between them, along with the role private companies and law enforcement are playing in the fight against this growing epidemic.

The Dark World of Spam

Spam emails are not just annoying promotions, but a massive industry that poses a serious threat to our safety online. Spam can contain malware and viruses that infect our computers, turning them into weapons for cybercriminals to carry out DDoS attacks or extortion schemes. McAfee discovered 14 million new malware viruses during the first quarter of 2013, and antivirus companies deal with 82,000 new malware variants via spam emails daily. Governments are not exempted from DDoS attacks, and the consequences can be very severe, as seen in the Estonian government’s experience in 2008 when a massive DDoS attack occurred, disabled most government websites for days, and disrupted essential services like online banking and medical emergencies networks.

The Spam Industry Revealed

The spam industry is led by a handful of cybercriminals who operate with utmost efficiency and profit. One such person is Pavel Vrublevsky, who made a name for himself with his network of hardcore porn sites that specialized in violent material. Vrublevsky also founded the Crutop.nu forum, which allows spammers to share secrets. He is behind ChronoPay, a payment service that has processed transactions for various cybercrime schemes while being the chairman of an anti-spam initiative by the Russian Ministry of Telecommunications. The spam industry also relies on partnerships or partnerkas to create stable and profitable networks, with Rx-Promotion being a major player founded by Vrublevsky and Yuri Kabayenkov, which set up illegal online pharmacies. However, after Vrublevsky’s arrest in 2011, these illegal networks fell apart rapidly, resulting in a 60% drop in reported fake anti-virus software problems.

The Cybercriminals behind Global Spam

Uncover the masterminds and botnets responsible for the overwhelming amount of spam in circulation, including Russian cybercriminals Gugle and Cosma. These spammers operate enormous networks of hacked computers and deluge the world with billions of spam messages daily, with one botnet producing 16 billion spam messages alone in 2008. These criminals live in luxury off their illicit earnings and have lured many programmers away from legitimate businesses. Cosma, for example, was paid $200,000 in commission for promoting pharmacy websites in just one year. In short, every day an army of cybercriminals sends countless spam emails, and it’s time to learn who’s behind it all.

Rogue Pharmacies and the Dangers of Cheap Prescription Drugs

Prescription medication can be expensive, and uninsured individuals may struggle to cover the out-of-pocket costs. Rogue online pharmacies arose as a result of this demand, offering cheaper generic alternatives for necessary medication. However, not all of these pharmacies were legitimate, with some selling fake pills or poisonous substances. As a result, consumers must exercise caution when considering purchasing from online pharmacies.

The Rise and Fall of Spam Kingpins

Gusev and Vrublevsky, two spammers behind the pharma partnerkas GlavMed and SpamIt, turned against each other, leading to a costly and ruinous feud known as the Pharma Wars. The rivalry was fueled by paranoia and distrust as they both grew richer and more powerful. Gusev spent over $400,000 bribing officials to protect himself and go after Vrublevsky, eventually leading to his imprisonment. However, Gusev was later forced to close down his business and flee the country under pressure from the law. The bitter feud ruined the spam industry and attracted the attention of politicians and law enforcement agencies, ending the profitable businesses of spammers.

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