The FBI released a warning Thursday in Washington that a spam e-mail is circulating that claims to be from FBI Deputy Director John Pistole. FBI officials say an investigation is currently under way into the origin of the fraudulent e-mail message from Pistole. The e-mail, which is attempting to use the reputation of Pistole as a way to appear legitimate, claims the recipient has won a large sum of money. As in the case with many spam e-mails, the recipient of the message will be granted the monies after personal banking information is provided so that a fake transaction fee can be processed.
We are a pretty Twitter-obsessed bunch here at PC Magazine. But while some of us have seen our number of Twitter followers jump into the triple digits, my posts are primarily a collection of nerd-oriented inside jokes aimed at my dozen or so co-worker followers. So it seemed a little odd when I received a handful of e-mail notifications last about random people now following me on Twitter. Did they really care that I was obsessed with the mac and cheese balls at a recent Microsoft event? Sadly, no. It was all a sinister spam scheme that toyed with my Twitter ego. These new "followers" linked only to a profile with links to what I assume are virus-laden sites.
DETROIT — A California man has pleaded guilty to federal charges and agreed to testify against a suburban Detroit man accused of running a massive Internet spam scam. Francis (Frankie) Tribble of Los Angeles pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit to fraud and money laundering charges. He admitted he made more than $2 million through a scheme that involved sending millions of unsolicited e-mail messages to inflate the price of Chinese stocks. The 41-year-old is the second of 11 defendants to plead guilty and agree to testify against Alan Ralsky of West Bloomfield. Authorities say Ralsky made $3 million in summer 2005 alone by trading in and out of Chinese stocks on U.S. exchanges. Tribble could face up to 9 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 5. The U.S. Attorney's Office announced on Jan. 3 that Ralsky had been indicted in Detroit on charges of violating federal anti-spam laws.
Image spam – where text is embedded in an image attached to an email – is on the increase, according to security researchers. Symantec has spotted a rise in the tactic among spammers, who use it to try and bypass spam filters, which traditionally work by matching keywords contained within the text of an email. In August this year, according to the company, 1.6 per cent of all spam was classed as image spam. In September this figure had risen to 2.6 per cent and in the first 10 days of October it stood at 8.6 per cent. It isn't a new approach – Web User has reported on the phenomenon several times in the past. "Nothing is blatantly new here, but the recent volume increase is notable enough for us to ask if this old trend could be trying for a comeback," said Symantec's Kelly Conley.
A spam e-mail claiming to be from FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole is currently being circulated. This attempt to defraud is the typical e-mail scam using the name and reputation of an FBI official to create an air of authenticity. As with many scams, the e-mail advises the recipient that they are the beneficiary of a large sum of money which they will be permitted to access once fees are paid and personal banking information is provided. The appearance of the e-mail leads the reader to believe that it is from FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole. This e-mail is a hoax. Do not respond. The IC3 continues to receive and develop intelligence regarding fraud schemes misrepresenting the FBI and/or FBI officials. The scam e-mails give the appearance of legitimacy through the use of pictures of FBI officials, seal, letterhead, and/or banners. These fraud schemes claim to be from domestic as well as international FBI offices. The typical types of schemes utilizing the names of FBI officials and/or the FBI are lottery endorsements and inheritance notifications, but can cover a range of scams from threats and malicious computer program attachments (malware) to online auction scams. These scams use the social engineering technique of employing the FBI's name to intimidate and convince the recipient the e-mail is legitimate.
An IM-based spam campaign has hit the Facebook website. Spam is being accessed via the popular social-engineering site when users click on a link that promises them a ‘hot date.' The link reproduces the Facebook site and collects the victim's log-in credentials by using a php script. Vlad Valceanu, head of BitDefender's anti-spam research, said: “Users should be cautious of any link sent to them via IM or email. Along with paying close attention to website names and likes, it is important for computer users to have an IT security solution installed onto their systems in order to avoid future attacks.”
Spam has been the bane of computer users throughout the world, and international authorities are pointing the finger at New Zealanders for playing a large part in it. The unsolicited emails arrive in huge volumes advertising a range of questionable products such as sex-enhancing pills. Even with new filtering technology, they can quickly clog up computer systems, so New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs has taken court action, for the first time using new anti-spam laws, against a trio of New Zealanders. Christchurch men Shane Atkinson and Roland Smits, and Mr Atkinson's brother, Lance, a New Zealand citizen living in Australia, are named in a civil case lodged in the High Court at Christchurch.
Twitter is stepping up its actions to fight spam, which has been plaguing the site since earlier this year and appears to be spiking this week. The company is looking to hire a spam engineer, preferably one who has worked at a big search or e-mail company, according to a tweet by founder Evan Williams. That person would likely work closely with the "spam marshal" that was hired in August. The hiring move was praised by the Twitter community. The latest job posting "is another sign that Twitter is maturing as a business and is using its VC funding wisely," says a post on the Stop Twitter Spam blog. "And it's a refreshing move by a company who seems to understand that cutting engineers when your product is 'ready' is a short-sighted move that will hurt you in the long run." Twitter also has changed the way it handles suspended spammer accounts, replacing the entire suspended page instead of redacting the Web links but leaving them in the profile section.
As cell phones get more computing power and better Internet connections, hackers could capitalize on vulnerabilities in operating systems to create armies of "zombie phones," according to a report from experts at Georgia Tech. Botnets, or networks of infected or robot PCs, are currently the weapons of choice when it comes to spam and so-called "denial of service attacks," in which computer servers are overwhelmed with internet traffic to shut them down. Botnets are so troubling because they have massive computing power and a seemingly endless supply of newly infected PCs to replace old ones that are wiped clean or taken offline. Millions of PC have fallen victim. The owners typically never know. The Georgia Tech researchers say that if mobile phones become absorbed in botnets, new types of moneymaking scams could be born. For example, infected phones could be programmed to call pay-per-minute 1-900 numbers or to buy ringtones from companies set up by the criminals. "The question is, can they do it effectively – make a lot of money without much risk?" said botnet expert Joe Stewart, director of malware research with SecureWorks Inc. "And if they can, then they will do it."
The owner of a small internet service provider serving customers in rural Iowa has won a 236 million dollar judgment against two Arizona spammers. A federal judge last week ordered couple Henry Perez and Suzanne Bartok to pay the damages for delivering millions of crippling mortgage spam in 2003 to servers belonging to CIS Internet Services, owned by Robert Kramer. Perez and Bartok purchased software called Bulk Mailing 4 Dummies to send the spam. The program included 2.8 million email addresses using Kramer's domain – cis.net – even though he had only about 5,000 customers, according to U.S. District Court Judge John Jarvey's decision.