Microsoft has fingered a possible author of the late Rustock spam botnet – a self-described software engineer and mathematician who aspired to one day be hired by Google. Microsoft has apparently allocated significant resources to finding the author, but has not been able to locate him.
Rustock remains dead, but Microsoft is still on the hunt for the Rustock author. In its Second Status Report (PDF) filed last week with a district court in Seattle, Microsoft said it inquired with virtual currency provider Webmoney about the owner of an account used to rent Rustock control servers, and confirmed that the account was affiliated with a man named Vladimir Alexandrovich Shergin. Microsoft also mentioned another suspect, “Cosma2k,” possibly named Dmitri A. Sergeev, Artem Sergeev, or Sergey Vladomirovich Sergeev. Microsoft said it is continuing its investigation of these names, to determine whether additional contact information can be identified and to which notice and service can be effected.
To help in the hunt, I hereby offer some details about him.
Microsoft helped to dismantle Rustock in March after a coordinated and well-timed “stun” targeting the spam botnet’s infrastructure, which was mainly comprised of servers based in U.S. hosting facilities. Two weeks after that takedown, I tracked down a Web hosting reseller in Eastern Europe who acknowledged renting some of those servers to the apparent Rustock author. That reseller shared the Webmoney account number used to purchase access to the servers, and Russian investigators I spoke with confirmed that the account had been registered by a Russian named Vladimir Shergin. By consulting a leaked database I obtained last year of the top earners for Spamit.com — at the time the world’s largest rogue online pharmacy network — I discovered that the same Webmoney account was shared by three of the top ten Spamit affiliates.
The information from the reseller and from the Spamit database traced back to a Spamit affiliate who used the pseudonym “Cosma2k.” The email address tied to that Cosma2K account was “firstname.lastname@example.org”. When I came into possession of the Spamit.com data back in August 2010, the site ger-mes.ru was still responding to requests, and the homepage presented some very interesting information. It included a job résumé, underneath a picture of a young man holding a mug. Above the image was the name “Sergeev, Dmitri A.” At the very top of the page was a simple message: “I want to work in Google.” Beneath the résumé is the author’s email address, followed by the message, “Waiting for your job”!
Here is the complete page and résumé, in case anyone wants a closer look at this Belorussian-educated job seeker. I shared the information with Google in August 2010, to find out if they’d received a job application from this person, or if they’d considered flying him to Mountain View, Calif. for an interview. I still don’t have an answer to either question. I shared this same information with Microsoft in March.
Microsoft seems determined to bring the Rustock malefactors to court. Maybe the mug shot in this résumé will help to identify at least one of them.