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Russia's 'spam kingpin' goes missing - and junk falls 20% in a month

Emails selling ‘V1agra’ and ‘h0t w0m3n’ fall by 20% in a month after a leading professional spammer goes on the run.

Image: freezelight via Flickr

THE NUMBER OF SPAM EMAILS sent to the world’s email inboxes in the last month has fallen by a fifth – almost entirely because one of Russia’s most notorious ‘spam kingpins’ has gone on the run.

The New York Times reports that police authorities in Moscow have begun a criminal investigation into the activity of Ivor A Gusev, who they believe has fled the country fearing a criminal investigation against him.

Gusev (31), they believe, was the main man behind SpamIt.com – a website that paid spammers to promote online pharmacies, which appeared to stop operating on September 27 – a month ago today.

Gusev is suspected of operating one of the main pharmacies promoted by the service, which operated without a licence. Moscow police raided his apartment and offices yesterday – but found no sign of any recent visits.

Their investigations into his activity started on September 21, six days before the website stopped operating. SpamIt.com has remained inactive since then, though it updated its homepage on October 10 with the words, “Le roi est mort! Vive le roi!” (“The king is dead; long live the king!”) – perhaps indicating that another person had taken the reins of the site.

The absence of the SpamIt paymasters as a motivation to send jump messages, the NY Times believes, has led to a 20% drop in the world’s overall spam supply: with an incredible 50 billion spam messages being sent every day.

“We’ve seen a sustained drop in global volumes,” said Henry Stern, a senior security analyst at Cisco Systems, pointing the closure of SpamIt.com as a direct cause.

A Russian antivirus company, meanwhile, believes the number of emails sent in the US and western Europe advertising prescription drugs had fallen from 65% at the beginning of September to just 41% at month’s end.

Last week, the Times adds, Russia’s Newsweek alleged that the SpamIt site was housed on the same servers that had launched some of the attacks on Georgia in 2008.

The relative drop in spam – which is said to account for 90% of all email – still means, however, that 200 billion junk emails are sent every single day.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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