Posts Tagged: ePassporte


5
Dec 11

Chats With Accused ‘Mega-D’ Botnet Owner?

Recently leaked online chat records may provide the closest look yet at a Russian man awaiting trial in Wisconsin on charges of running a cybercrime machine once responsible for sending between 30 to 40 percent of the world’s junk email.

Oleg Nikolaenko

Oleg Y. Nikolaenko, a 24-year-old who’s been dubbed “The King of Spam,” was arrested by authorities in November 2010 as he visited a car show in Las Vegas. The U.S. Justice Department alleges that Nikolaenko, using the online nickname “Docent” earned hundreds of thousands of dollars using his “Mega-D” botnet, which authorities say infected more than half a million PCs and could send over 10 billion spam messages a day. Nikoalenko has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and is slated to appear in court this week for a status conference (PDF) on his case.

The Justice Department alleges that Nikolaenko spammed on behalf of Lance Atkinson and other members of Affking, an affiliate program that marketed fly-by-night online pharmacies and knockoff designer goods. Atkinson told prosecutors that one of his two largest Russian spamming affiliates used the online moniker Docent. He also said that Docent received payment via an ePassporte account under the name “Genbucks_dcent.” FBI agents later learned that the account was registered in Nikolaenko’s name and address in Russia, and that the email address attached to the account was 4docent@gmail.com.

According to my research, Docent also spammed for other rogue pharmacy programs. In fact, it’s hard to find one that didn’t pay him to send spam. In my Pharma Wars series, I’ve detailed how Russian cybercrime investigators probing the operations of the massive GlavMed/SpamIt rogue pharmacy operation seized thousands of chat logs from one of its principal organizers. The chats were later leaked online and to select journalists. Within those records are hundreds of hours of chats between the owners of the pharmacy program and many of the world’s biggest spammers, including dozens with one of its top earners — Docent.

According to the SpamIt records, Docent earned commissions totaling more than $325,000 promoting SpamIt pharmacy sites through spam between 2007 and 2010. The Docent in the SpamIt database also had his earnings sent to the same ePassporte account identified by the FBI. The Docent in the leaked chats never references himself as Nikolaenko, but in several cases he asks SpamIt coordinators to send documents to him at the 4docent@gmail.com address.

The chats between Docent and Stupin show a young man who is ultra-confident in the value and sheer spam-blasting power of his botnet. Below are the first in a series of conversation snippets between Docent and SpamIt co-administrator Dmitry Stupin. Before each is a brief note providing some context.

In the transcript that follows, Stupin tries to woo Docent to join SpamIt. Docent negotiates a much higher commission rate than is usually given to new spamming partners. The typical rate is 30 percent of each sale, but Docent is a known figure in the spamming underground, and argues that his botnet will bring such massive traffic to the SpamIt pharmacies that he deserves a higher 45 or 50 percent cut of the sales. This conversation was recorded on Feb. 1, 2007.

Stupin:  Hello! You have communicated with ICQ 397061228, I am writing regarding your case, Docent.

Docent: Which case?

Stupin:  Do you want to send spam regarding our partnerka [“partnerka” is Russian slang for a mix of private and semi-public affiliate groups that form to facilitate cybercrime activities].

Docent: Which exactly do you mean? I have not yet communicated with this 397061228.

Stupin: Here is the letter which recently came from  you: “It is usual spam,  GI bases, not opt-in. Big volume of emails. I mail a lot of [competing pharmacy] programs, Bulker, Mailien, SRX. I’m a member of most bulk forums. So if you need references, i can provide them. Usual traffic is 2k+ uniques. Also i need bulk-host.”

Docent: Yes, I got it. It’s just nobody IM’d me.

Stupin: ок) What kind of volumes of spam can you deliver? We are soon deploying our own “partnerka” for spam, we just do not have it right now.

Docent: Volumes are huge, 500 million + / day.

Stupin: Wow! Are you not accidentally on [Spamhaus] ROKSO List ?

Docent: Yes, it’s a list of idiots :), with the exception of a couple of people.

Stupin:  We do contract people for our spam campaigns, but only verified people. We are not publicly opened yet.

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1
Dec 10

FBI Identifies Russian ‘Mega-D’ Spam Kingpin

Federal investigators have identified a 23-year-old Russian man as the mastermind behind the notorious “Mega-D” botnet, a network of spam-spewing PCs that once accounted for roughly a third of all spam sent worldwide.

According to public court documents related to an ongoing investigation, a grand jury probe has indicted Moscow resident Oleg Nikolaenko as the author and operator of the Mega-D botnet.

Federal agents settled on Nikolaenko thanks to information provided by Lance Atkinson, an Australian man named as a co-conspirator in the “Affking” e-mail marketing and counterfeiting operation that was shuttered in 2008 after investigations by the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and international law enforcement authorities. The Affking program generated revenues of $500,000 a month using spam to promote counterfeit Rolexes, herbal “male enhancement” pills and generic prescription drugs.

As part of his guilty plea to spam violations, Atkinson provided investigators information on the top spammers who helped to promote the Affking products. Among them was an affiliate who used the online nickname “Docent,” who earned nearly $467,000 in commissions over a six month period in 2007.

Atkinson told investigators that Docent’s commissions were sent to an ePassporte account, under the name “Genbucks_dcent,” that was tied to the e-mail address “4docent@gmail.com.” Records subpoenaed by the grand jury found that the ePassporte account was registered in Nikolaenko’s name to an address in Moscow.

According to court documents, investigators found numerous executable files in Docent’s Gmail inbox. Those files were analyzed by researchers at SecureWorks, an Atlanta based security firm, which found them to be samples of the Mega-D malware.

Update: [Nikolaenko was reportedly arrested in the United States recently. See update at the end, after the jump.]

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15
Sep 10

Following the Money, ePassporte Edition

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the financial troubles afflicting ePassporte, an online payment provider whose sudden disconnection from the Visa network left many account holders without access to millions of dollars. I became interested in ePassporte because it kept popping up as I was investigating stories related to affiliate programs that reward people who peddle things like rogue anti-virus products and spam.

Since then, I’ve heard from a large number of disgruntled ePassporte account holders, most of whom were or are in the online porn industry, a market that ePassporte’s CEO Chris Mallick helped to nurture. In fact, as I noted in that original blog entry, Mallick produced “Middle Men,” a movie released by Paramount in August that is a fictionalized account of his experiences in the porn billing industry.

Many of those readers have been asking for an update on this story, and I’m afraid I don’t have a whole lot more to report. But the old adage about following the money led me to at least try to understand a bit more about how ePassporte is structured, and where its money may be.

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3
Sep 10

VISA Blocks ePassporte

Credit card giant VISA International has suspended its business with ePassporte, an Internet payment system widely commonly used to pay adult Webmasters and a raft of other affiliate programs.

Company owner Christopher Mallick broke the news to ePassporte customers in an e-mail sent Thursday, saying Visa International had suspended the company’s ePassporte Visa program, which is processed through St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank.

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