The Washington Post reported last week that the Chinese government has quietly arrested a handful of hackers at the urging of the U.S. government, a move described as “an unprecedented step to defuse tensions with Washington at a time when the Obama administration has threatened economic sanctions.” While this a welcome and encouraging development, this is not the first time Beijing has arrested Chinese hackers in response to pressure from the U.S. government.
Last week, hacktivists posted online 400 GB worth of internal emails, documents and other data stolen from Hacking Team, an Italian security firm that has earned the ire of privacy and civil liberties groups for selling spy software to governments worldwide. New analysis of the leaked Hacking Team emails suggests that in 2013 the company used techniques perfected by spammers to hijack Internet address space from a spammer-friendly Internet service provider in a bid to regain control over a spy network it apparently had set up for the Italian National Military Police.
Last week, National Public Radio aired a story on my Pharma Wars series, which chronicles an epic battle between men who ran two competing cybercrime empires that used spam to pimp online pharmacy sites. As I was working with the NPR reporter on the story, I was struck by how much spam has decreased over the past couple of years. Below is a graphic that’s based on spam data collected by Symantec’s MessageLabs. It shows that global spam volumes fell and spiked fairly regularly, from highs of 6 trillion messages sent per month to just below 1 trillion. I produced this graph based on Symantec’s raw spam data.
The last post in this series introduced the world to “Google,” an alias chosen by the hacker in charge of Cutwail — currently the world’s largest spam botnet. Google rented his crime machine to members of SpamIt, an organization that paid spammers to promote rogue Internet pharmacy sites. This made Google a top dog, but also a primary target of other botmasters selling software to SpamIt, particularly the hacker known as “SPM,” the guy behind the infamous Srizbi botnet.
I began writing for The Washington Post in 1996, and started covering computer and Internet security in 1999. Below are links to what I believe is some of my best work over the past four years or so. Virtually all… Read More »