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Spam Bug

Writing Viruses for Fun and Profit 172

Posted by Hemos
from the insidisous-dependence dept.
JMPrice writes "There's a short article over at zdnet that explores a future synergy between viruses and spam, i.e. international crackdown on spam and open relays makes spammers opt to use infected computers instead as relays, and speculates a relationship between the virus writers and spammers."
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Writing Viruses for Fun and Profit

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  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bluelive (608914) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:13AM (#6329505)
    Has it really become harder for spammers to remain anonymous ? Anyways, if it was really for spamming purposes the virus would just start open relaying.
    • Re:Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > .. start open relaying
      not really
      the developer who pays for 4 M spam masseges does not want that any other spamer uses "his" infrastructure ... ;-)
      • It needs to be an open relay, if it wass password protect or something it would be much to easy to sue an (ab)user of the open relay for the virus, how could he otherwise have known about it.
        • by rutledjw (447990) on Monday June 30, 2003 @09:36AM (#6330152) Homepage
          SPAMMERS right now are crowing that "we're not doing anything illegal". Aside from using another companies computers/bandwidth/resources without permission and selling products of dubious value - they're right. But all of that is subjective WRT legality.

          Now, if they're using hacked computers, they're on the wrong side of the law. Period. We're not talking civil damages any longer. The discussion point is how long they'll be in "Federal pound-me-in-the-ass Prison".

          This is the dumbest idea from a spammers viewpoint I've ever read. However, I'm not under the impression many of these guys are intelligent. The only reason they've been able to defeat filters and other mechanisms is either stupid admins or half-hearted implementations.

          I personally hope they do it! I'd love to see a few spend some time in our lovely Federal Corrections Facilities.

          • This is the dumbest idea from a spammers viewpoint I've ever read.

            Ok, like...what part of "this is speculation" did you not understand? Or did you not even read the article? Or did you read it, but find yourself unable to process the many syllables of the word "speculation?"
            I admit, it's refreshing for a "journalist" to cop to speculating, but that's still a good indication that he needed a pyacheck and couldn't think of anything WORTHWHILE to write about...and of course, if it's useless and speculatory,
            • Oh boy, where to start?

              This is the dumbest idea from a spammers viewpoint I've ever read.

              Ok, like...what part of "this is speculation" did you not understand? Or did you not even read the article? Or did you read it, but find yourself unable to process the many syllables of the word "speculation?"

              OK, dear idiot, take a deep breath, try thinking. In other words, if I were a spammer reading this article (from a spammers viewpoint) I would think it's a dumb idea(This is the dumbest idea ... I've ever rea

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Sending spam? That isn't all.

        The brutalrape spammer did more. His virus infected computers to install a tiny web server and a few pages. Victims had graphic rape images on their machines. The virus "phoned home" when the victim went online. The spammer took the victim's IP address and added it to his nameserver as (one of the) IP address(es) for his spamvertized hostname.

        Those getting the spam would complain about the graphic images and spam site - on a victim's computer. The tiny web site would have a

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by joto (134244) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:43AM (#6329600)
      Since most spammers advertise and sell a product, spammer can't be anonymous. At some point you will be able to send money in one direction, and goods in another. This is not particulary hard to track.

      Furthermore, spamming might be more or less legal in different jurisdictions, but you can usually get away with it. Willfully spreading viruses is not something you can get away with. Only very stupid spammers would ever try that technique (as explained in the previous paragraph, it wouldn't be particulary hard to trace the virus back to it's originator)

      • Re:Really? (Score:3, Informative)

        by anshil (302405)
        There is something important you forgot, you are not confronting one entity, but two. The ordering customer, and the entity sending the spams. These are usually different. One entity pays the other to send it's spam. The spam customer is not anonymous, the actual spam sender stays anonymous.
    • Re:Really? (Score:2, Informative)

      by stefanvt (75684)
      Not really, if you make sure it only sends out spam for a limited amount of time the chances of being detected are much lower.

      More like a hit and run technique it is much harder to defend and act against.

      You also don't leave a trail of bread crums behind. It could also be argued that you (the spammer), when charged for spamming, are the victim of an orchestrated spamming.

    • by splerdu (187709) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:17AM (#6329718)
      While being anonymous for anonymity's sake isn't very hard to do, it is hard for a spammer to remain anonymous and be effective at the same time. These people are selling products, at the very least they can be traced to the guy who paid them to send the spam.

      Buy our new penis enlargement pills!
      Available at... errr... go figure
      • These people are selling products, at the very least they can be traced to the guy who paid them to send the spam.

        I always thought it'd be a good idea to people who are selling the products, not the advertisers. At least go after the legal liabilities for being in a business relationship with an unscrupulous spammer. That would force the sellers to choose their spammers wisely; for examlpe making sure they have a legitimate list of people who'd really like to be contacted with information about "enlarge
  • by T-Kir (597145) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:15AM (#6329511) Homepage

    future synergy between viruses and spam

    Sounds like something out of Dilbert... time load up the Bullfighter [dc.com].

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adamofgreyskull (640712) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:15AM (#6329512)
    One clue is, in your e-mail client, the sudden presence of "delivery failure" alerts for e-mails sent to people you do not know.
    Doesn't this come about from people just spoofing your address anyway? If not, Hotmail has a virus problem. :o)
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Endareth (684446) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:19AM (#6329729) Journal
      Given that I've suffered this myself, with a virus-free existence of some years, I suspect that my email address has been used on several occasions by spammers as a from address due to my use of Spamcop to attempt to report these spammers. This article really doesn't seem too well researched I'm afraid.
      • This article really doesn't seem too well researched I'm afraid.

        Gee, ya think? What gave it away, the moronic conclusions the author came to, or the phrase "this is just speculation" close to the beginning?

      • Re:Huh? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Elwood P Dowd (16933)
        Um, you've got it exactly wrong. This happens because you sent email to a friend of yours, and that friend got a virus. The virus uses random email addys from either their mailboxes or their address book as a spoofed from address.

        It's not spammers, it's bugbear. Or whatever the flavor of the week is.
    • Hotmail is a virus problem.
  • On the plus side... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kinnell (607819) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:17AM (#6329520)
    Any spammer using this technique will be entering the realms of cyber-terrorism, and will be liable for a big prison sentence and dedicated criminal investigations. Given that spam is advertising, it probably wouldn't be very hard to track the perpetrators down once the appropriate warrants are issued. I predict that either this report is overblown, or a few spammers will end up getting the buggering they deserve in prison.
  • What cash flow? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:17AM (#6329523)
    Seriously, how many spammers make enough money to be able to pay virus writers any decent sum for their work?
    • Re:What cash flow? (Score:5, Informative)

      by skurk (78980) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:41AM (#6329589) Homepage Journal
      Quite a few, I'd guess.

      Some spammers make serious cash, for instance this fellow [oregonlive.com], who claims to have earned $1k each week.

      Composing another Outlook virus is trivial. Download an existing source (either from usenet [source.code] or some web page [bismark.it]), modify, and start spreading it.

      Any 13yo kid with some programming experience can do this, and if it pays $500, it probably beats mowing lawns for several weeks!
      • I'm a 13yo kid with some programming experience, you insensitive clod!

        But you do have a point. Besides, the difference between Outlook and a virus is that a)corporations make you use it b) you have to pay for it c)it's more widespread d)it does more damage.

        Also, most 13yo kids I know hate spam enough not to send any. Not that they have any programming experience
    • Re:What cash flow? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I don't know...though I remember a few Slashdot articles over the past year that mention Spammers making quite a bit of money (not millionares, but not paupers either).
    • Last Thursday or Friday's USA Today had a story/interview with the cajun spammer. (It was on the front page of the Money section.)

      He claims income of $20k to $40k per month. (I wonder what the IRS has to say on that. Wouldn't it be wonderful if he went down for tax evasion? Talk about a law with teeth.)

      On a side note I got quoted in that article - to the effect of "Why does this vermin still have a pulse?"

      His wife had the audacity to complain and wonder why anyone would want to kill him over a "piece o
  • Soblig (Score:3, Funny)

    by gostats (647325) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:17AM (#6329524) Homepage
    Article: "The virus many suspect to be sending spam is called Sobig"

    Random email: "Please see the attached zip file for details."

    Should I expect to find "herbal remedies" in this zip file?

    .sig
    Like _I_ can be more sarcastic!
    • Re:Soblig (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Spudley (171066)
      Should I expect to find "herbal remedies" in this zip file?

      Duh. It'll be a bigger pen1s, of course. What else would you expect to find if you open a zip?

      And for that matter, why did you think this virus is called "So Big?"
  • by GreatDrok (684119) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:20AM (#6329528) Journal
    Any biologist will tell you that in an environment where there is only one type of organism, any infection that they are susceptable to that comes along will have catastrophic effects. To avoid this you need diversity. In computing the problem with having windows/intel as the vast majority is that any attack that targets that is going to cause a lot of trouble. Standards that have been implemented on many platforms and architectures are what is needed but that goes against Microsoft's desire for control of everything. However, that desire is doomed to fail because if they fail to take control they fail and if they win complete control they fail because of the lack of diversity.

    it is good to have lots of operating systems and processors out there, anything else would be suicide. With proper diversity we could control both the virus and spam problems.
    • Interesting point, but you put forward the need for diversity and combine that with standards that have been implemented on many platforms. Following your line of thought we really should all be using different ways to communicate in stead of standards, to differentiate and mitigate the risk of an attack that uses one of the technologies. Standard communication protocols are just a monoculture as a "standard" operating system is. I'm more tempted to go for standards and accept the monoculture that comes w
      • by GreatDrok (684119) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:31AM (#6329557) Journal
        No, a standard can be implemented by people using different code bases. If the standard is faulty then it needs to be fixed and each implementation also needs to be fixed to deal with the problem. However, the vast majority of problems with standards come from there being a single code base. For example, SSH. There is code based on the original SSH implementation and code based on OpenSSH. Frequently there is a problem with one or the other but not both. Less frequently there is a problem with the standard itself.
    • "it is good to have lots of operating systems and processors out there, anything else would be suicide. With proper diversity we could control both the virus and spam problems."

      If I follow your logic, you could also make a case that having different taxation laws in every state, city and town would reduce tax evasion. More likely the same amount would go on, but it would be harder to detect and control and police. Who cares if some small guy from Assfuck, Idaho is cheating on his tax.

      With diverse oper
      • A Windows trojan is news. There are a gajillion desktops out there to attack. Who is interested in reporting a virus for a niche operating system with a few thousand users? Certainly not the mainstream. What about Antivirus tools, etc. Who is going to write them?

        I think the authors point was the problem is that there are a gajillion wintel desktops out there. It's great that a windows trojan is news, but I don't think we've seen one that is REALLY malware. Most of them only focus on self-replication
      • If I follow your logic, you could also make a case that having different taxation laws in every state, city and town would reduce tax evasion.

        Tax evasion is totally dissimilar. By *your* logic, a virus is only concerned in infecting the individual computer that someone writes it for. The benefit of diversity is that finding an appropriate target is a little more difficult. Furthermore, if a particular platform is particularly vulnerable, with proper diversity (and the standards to support it), it will

      • With diverse operating systems, there will be precisely the same number of dickheads out there writing malware, but that each would be more focussed for an OS, and perhaps more difficult to detect.

        You're missing the point. By requiring the virus writers to be much more specific, you make the effectiveness of that virus much less. The appeal of writing a virus for Windows is watching the whole world fear that virus because ~80% of the world's computers run Windows. If you had smaller market shares, say

  • Good! (Score:3, Funny)

    by GrouchoMarx (153170) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:21AM (#6329529) Homepage
    So if virus writers and spammers are the same folks (or even just partners), that makes life so much easier. Only one group of people to have publically drawn and quartered. Saves time and money (and cleanup costs).
    • Re:Good! (Score:2, Funny)

      by sICE (92132)
      It's even worse, i heard the subject of the email sent was "Get a free preview of McAfee PCSecurity Suite -- Complete Protection Against Viruses, Hackers & Identity Thieves"....
  • by pytheron (443963) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:21AM (#6329531) Homepage
    There's no foolproof way to restrict the Sobig variations from getting onto your PC

    I see that the Senoir Associate Editor wrote this piece. That may explain the embarrasingly outdated technology quotes, like One reason for this success is that the latest variants include Zip files, but with reference to the foolproof quote, what I'm inclined to believe is that the makers of ZoneAlarm paid for this sort of tripe (advert on the article). Brown Envelope journalism at it's best !


    • That may explain a lot of things. I use a computer on the internet, to read email and do other typical things--and I have never been infected with a virus. I don't even use Anti-Virus software to protect my system, at all. I open all attachments sent to me, even those from people I don't know. In short, I use a computer as they were designed to be used, before they were compromised by security failures.

      What's my secret? And it's more than just luck.
      • Common sense approach to systems is important.

        In the case of the poster, he/she happens to be using a platform the virus can't use. Ie, a Mac.

        I've got three systems at home: Mac X, WinXP, and Linux. Not one of my systems have been hit by virii. The trick? Not using MS email/web/document products.

        The point is that the file needs to get onto your system and the way to do that is to either look at it yourself or your software does. If your software is sane and so are you, then you will avoid the problems of

  • The problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mensa Babe (675349) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:27AM (#6329544) Homepage Journal
    The problem is that we are trying to catch spammers, instead of people who sell the very advertised products and services. Just follow the money, people. That way it won't matter how well spammers hide their identity. It all works because someone gets the money, which is absolutely trivial to track. If few CEOs went to jail because their companies' products were in spam, I'm sure other CEOs would at the very least stop to think about it. It is really that simple.
    • How about the classic joe-job defense? Who do you throw in jail if someone claims they knew nothing about it?
    • Idiocy (Score:4, Funny)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:51AM (#6329624)
      That would be great. Suppose my market is being threatened by Megasoft's new Office XYZ product that beats the pants off of mine. All I would need to do is send out spams _advertising_ Office XYZ, and the cops would run over and arrest their CEO and put them out of business. Bwahaha!
    • Re:The problem (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Monoman (8745) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:58AM (#6329645) Homepage
      You are on to what I have been saying for years.

      If my company pays another company to advertise my product and or services and they use illegal advertising methods, then shouldn't my company be punished also?

      Does it matter if my company knew about the advertising methods that would be used? I don't know anyone that would hire an advertising company without knowing what service was being provided.
      • Re:The problem (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        This type of approach is already taken in many areas of law - particularly environmental law.

        If you generate toxic waste you own it forever. You can pay somebody to dispose of it, but you still own it even when it is 20 feet under dirt. If you pay somebody to bury it properly and they dump it in the Mississippi river you can be sued for cleanup costs.

        The result? Companies now screen and audit their disposal firms. Companies don't just look for the cheapest price when they outsource these jobs. As a r
        • Equating the responsibility of junk mail with the responsibility of toxic waste really should not require much of a stretch of the imagination. =)
    • The solution (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thynk (653762)
      I'm really a good natured person 99% of the time. But, the easiest solution to this is not to fine the spammers we catch. Rather, a few violent and gory executions, broadcast on PPV Friday prime time, and I can imagine that you'd find a lot less spam in your mail box on Monday.

      The same type of solution would work with auto accidents. If you want to reduce the number of accidents, remove the seat belts, air bags and ABS brakes. Line the dash with 6" steel spikes and I can bet you'll find the number of
  • by Dynamoo (527749) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:34AM (#6329569) Homepage
    ..and it stinks. Last week there was a massive "joe job" attack on Doxdesk.com [doxdesk.com], a site detailing browser parasites, porn diallers and other nasty plugins. The aim of the joe job was to generate fake spam supposedly advertising the site so it would get shut down.

    The spam was being generated from multiple locations simultaneously, and from IP addresses that looked like standard ISP subscribers, mostly in the US and Western Europe. It looks suspiciously like the spam was being sent from Trojanised PCs.

    Bearing in mind that the people most likely to want to force Doxdesk.com off the web were browser parasite writers, it seems to me that there is a definite link now between these parasites, certain viruses/trojans/worms and spammers. Just another bit of proof that these people have no respect for the law.

  • I'm not so sure... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nepheles (642829) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:40AM (#6329587) Homepage

    It's difficult to see how spammers could remain annonymous. At the moment, they're an annoyance, but if they enter the realm of law-breaking to this extent, it is likely that there will be a major crackdown. And this shall not be difficult, because of the very nature of spam -- to get you to buy a product. Therefore, there must be a link to the spammer.

    It won't work.

    • When you're sending out a virus, or just writing a mass mailer and letting it spread itself, there is no product to advertise. No product means no link. Think of the virus as the "first stage".

      When it comes to doing the spamming itself the spammer is just "innocently" using an open proxy, and while that may be rude it's not considered illegal. It would be very hard to link the spamming and the virus writing in any legal way without access to the machine which created the virus (and finding the source code
  • This is NOT new (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:45AM (#6329607)
    This has been the consensus at SPAM-L for quite some time. You might want to subscribe.

    Google for SPAM-L's FAQ [google.com]
  • Sobig virus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:48AM (#6329619)
    So, Sobig is a worm that infects your machine and sends spam ? Let me rephrase this : Sobig is a worm that infects your *Windows* machine and sends spam.

    Since Microsoft has started a crusade against Spam (to free-up bandwidth for their own humongous patches and service packs no doubt, they never do anything without a reason), shouldn't they start by fixing the very platform that makes it possible for worms to send spam ?
  • by Matey-O (518004) <michaeljohnmiller@mSPAMsSPAMnSPAM.com> on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:49AM (#6329621) Homepage Journal
    Please note, in order for Outlook 20X6 to operate properly, you must first place this workstation on your DMZ for no less than 15 minutes, in order for it to receive IMAP7NukeViagraHGH.D@MM

    This will allow you to have a high speed, reliable, DRM'd Microsoft Email eXPerience! (tm)

  • by adzoox (615327) * on Monday June 30, 2003 @07:58AM (#6329644) Journal
    I had written a slashdot story submission not too long ago that was rejected [slashdot.org]. Here it is:

    Some Spammers=Some Hackers

    Today's court ruling [idg.net] in favor of the ISP Earthlink [earthlink.com] vs Spam Ring Leader Howard Carmack got me to thinking.

    Are ALL Spammers doing it for a profit? I find that many to most SPAM emails I receive in my inbox have unresolved links. Meaning; you can't "take advantage of the DEALS you are getting". (not that you'd necessarily want to) What would be the purpose of sending out emails such as this in great quantity, and using the man hours, hardware, etc to do it?

    I think it may have to do partially with "the hacker mentality" Not all hackers do things for the common mythical reasons we like to think they do. (Revenge on the corporate world, profit, fame) - they do it because they can and a lot do it because they are mentally obsessed with it.

    This was the attitude of a former colleague of mine that was hacker. He came from a rich family, was very well known in the community, and had a 1000 easier ways to get what he was wanting accomplished. He was obsessed first of all with hacking, second doing it with a Macintosh, and 3rd just because he could.

    I'm not alluding to hackers having a mental problem, nor really comparing hackers to spammers.

    This ruling, just made me think of motivation. Maybe if we can tap the motivation for Spammers, then maybe we can come up with the solution.

  • by GillBates0 (664202)
    A couple of days back somebody brought up a point on this discussion [slashdot.org] about the W32.Sobig.E@mm worm that the short lifetimes and more or harmless payloads of recent viruses is probably an indication of antivirus companies releasing viruses and worms for fun and profit.

    If that is the case, the popular ./ meme holds good for both spammers and antivirus people:

    1. Release viruses/worms.
    2. Use compromised computers as relays.
    3. Send lots of spam.
    4. ???
    5. Profit
    6. Sell antivirus software.
    7. ???
    8. Even

  • Tracking (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Infernon (460398) *
    Seeing as how spammers are paid for the messages that they send out, how is it possible to track the messages that have been sent using this type of method? If you've got millions of nodes around the world sending messages on your behalf, how do you tell how many you've sent so that you can bill your clients?
    • Re:Tracking (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Seeing as how spammers are paid for the messages that they send out, how is it possible to track the messages that have been sent using this type of method?

      Easy. It's called seeding. Mass mailers and those selling mailing lists use it all the time. The idea is simple; along with the target addresses, the company paying for the mail service plants known fake addresses along with the supposedly good ones. If the known address is used when it shouldn't be or is not used when it should be, you automatic

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:06AM (#6329675) Homepage
    Simply institute a fine of $1000.00 per ad to the company in the virus-transmitted spam. They are easy to find as they give you the website/telephone numbers in the spam it's self.

    To hell with the spammers, target the companies in the content.

  • by wowbagger (69688) * on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:17AM (#6329719) Homepage Journal
    Folks who work for ISPs will be angered by this post, but before you hit reply, take a deep breath, step outside yourself for a bit, and think about what I am about to type.

    While ISPs are not to blame for this problem, ISPs are in the position to correct this problem. This is not about fixing blame, it is about fixing the problem. Keep that in mind.

    Now, as I've said in previous posts about this sort of thing, it all boils down to preventing the spread of infection - mathematically, if the expected value of the number of hosts infected by any given host is greater than one, then the infection will be much like a supercritical mass of fissionable material. So the trick is to reduce the expected value to less than one.

    Now, there are plenty of ways to do this, most of which involve the ISP taking some action.
    • Require users to keep their machines virus free, and disconnect them QUICKLY when they fail to do so.
    • Scan outbound email, and drop all mails that have attachments with extensions that do not match the Mimetype (e.g. an attachment with an extension of type .scr but a Mimetype of audio/midi). (Yes, this would not matter had Microsoft correctly implemented Mimetype checking in IE, but they didn't - the OS looks at the file extender, not the Mimetype.)
    • In the same vein, block all outbound mails that contain directly executable attachements. Friends don't send friends programs, and if they must do so, they zip them first.
    • Limit the average user's ability to bypass such filtering - do not allow users to directly send to SMTP, SMB, and NFS ports unless the user have explicitly asked for such access and taken responsiblity for doing so.
    • Upon getting complaints about violations, QUICKLY move to resolve the problem - as in, within 24 hours. If the customer will not or cannot solve the problem within that time, shut them down until they can.


    In short, take responsiblity for FIXING the problem, and force your downstream customers to do the same.

    I have been receiving a steady stream of virus laden emails from udw.ac.za (a university in South Africa). I have repeatedly contacted them as well as their up stream provider (saix.com). All SAIX does is send a nastygram to UDW. All UDW does is experiment in topological auto-proctology. Were SAIX to say "Alright - we've had five complaints this past week. You obviously are not doing anything to solve the problem, so until you do, we are blocking port 25 outbound from you" then UDW would be HIGHLY motivated to correct the problem.

    But right now, most ISPs have the attitude of Mind Over Matter - "We don't mind, so it don't matter. Over and out." As such, the problem persists and grows. ISPs mail servers handle a steadily increasing stream of viruses and spam, for which they complain bitterly about having to buy new equipment (while raising their fees), but they don't actually try to SOLVE the problem.

    If ISPs were to say, "The line must be drawn here. Here, and no further." - if they were to start blocking viruses and spam, disconnecting users that spread them, and requiring their downstream to do the same, then the expected value of the number of hosts any one host can infect would drop to a tiny fraction of 1, and the reaction would damp out. Viruses would not longer spread like wildfire, the news would no longer report upon them, and the virus writers would no longer get egobo from writing them.

    However, as long as ISPs continue to do their best Sgt. Schultz of Stalag 13 ("I SEE NOTHING! NOTHING!") impersonation, as long as ISPs say "It's not our fault - we are not to blame, why should we do anything about it!" then the problem will only grow.

    (/me sits back and waits for the inevitable flames from ISPs wishing to do exactly that...)
    • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:50AM (#6329885) Homepage
      It's a nice idea, but the biggest problem that I can see is that it would make ISPs responsible, in a very real, legal and scary sense, for the content of the packets that they carry.

      As it stands, an ISP is not that much different than the phone company. They connect one user to another and don't worry about what is being said. What you are proposing is that all service providers would spy on their users and take corrective action if they are caught saying the wrong things.

      This would be no different than the phone company terminating your call if they hear you mention the words "pie", "face", "chimp" and "white house" all in the same conversation.

      If an ISP were to take such an interest in what their users have to say, then it would leave them in a tricky legal position -- If they have a policy of shutting down users who traffic in Windows Malware 2002 (tm), then why do they turn a blind eye to such horrible things as kiddie porn, copyrighted music and Harry Potter fan-fiction? The lawsuits would spread like wildfire, and the imminent death of the internet would arrive at eleven.

      • Content monitoring has nothing to do with the post you responded to.

        Disconnecting a downstream customer who does not respond to complaints has nothing to do with monitoring their content.

        If you get several well-justified complaints from different, unconnected sources about someone within your juristiction, you give that person time to respond to the complaints. If he does not respond in a satisfactory manner, you cut him off.

        Simple enough. No content monitoring involved.
    • by radish (98371) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:53AM (#6329909) Homepage
      I'm not an ISP, but I'm a customer of one. Much as I hate spam, if my ISP implemented the measures you described, they would cease to be my ISP. I don't want my ISP telling me what type of attachments I can send (my company already does such checks on internal mail, and it drives me mad, but it's their network so they can do as they please). As for virii, trojans etc, well if I cause an actual problem to their network, or another of their clients, then sure they have good reason to disconnect me. But putting some requirement on me to keep my machine "virus free" (what does that mean anyway?) they will almost certainly end up mandating use of some (commercial, windows only) antivirus package. Great - there goes support for other OSs.

      Where I do agree is in responding to problems. However I've not had so many problems here. In the few occasions where I've had serious problems from people scanning, flooding, whatever, I've complained to the appropriate place (in one case I remember an italian ISP, in another a US one) and it's been fixed. Guess I've been lucky.
      • Virus free (Score:3, Insightful)

        by wowbagger (69688) *
        " they will almost certainly end up mandating use of some (commercial, windows only) antivirus package."

        No, that is exactly why I phrased it as I did - "require the user to keep his machine virus free."

        If a machine is sending virus laden emails, then it is not virus free. Otherwise, innocent until proven guilty.

        As for the attachements - I am sorry, but your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins, your right to play your stereo ends where it enters my house. Society can quite legitimately ask i
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I used to work for a small local ISP (quit not 10 days ago) and I can tell you we don't care that much to do all you're talking about.

      First, our mail system that we started using and are kinda stuck with doesn't do checks on outgoing mail for viruses (iMail). The costs are too high for the small business to add the functionality ourselves.

      iMail now has outgoing spam checking, but when we have your name, address, phonenumber, and you have to call us for setup, etc. we have never had any abuse in terms of s
  • PEBKAC (Score:4, Informative)

    by WegianWarrior (649800) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:21AM (#6329737) Journal

    Or for those not so keen on abverbiations, Problem Exist Between Keyboard And Chair.

    Make sure you got the latest anti-virus program. Do not open attachments from prople you don't know. Be wary about opening attachement from people you do know. Avoid HTML-enchanted (ha!) mail like the plauge. If possible, run another e-mail client than Outlook and Outlook Express. Set up and maintain a firewall that can block traffic that goes out as well as in. Use common sence - you wouldn't enter a house of ill repute in real life in fear of a STD, so you shouldn't visit a website of ill repute in fear of getting a virus or worse.

    Seriously... if more people used their heads to think with and was a little more suspious about things, this would not be a problem.

    • Re:PEBKAC (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MrMickS (568778) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:45AM (#6329842) Homepage Journal
      How long before someone writes a virus does the following:
      1. Examine sent items folder looking for items with attachments.
      2. Send another message to the same person as a follow up with an infected version of the attachement.
      This would get through most of the operator suspicion filters. If the payload mutates enough to make it difficult to fingerprint it would miss virus checkers as well.

      Taking this into account the problem isn't the operator but an MUA/OS that allows code to be executed in such a manner. Signed documents, trusted sources, etc may help here.

      • Re:PEBKAC (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It may have been an accident, but this has already happened to us with BUGBEAR.B. The virus software vendor for our mailserver sent us an alert to update our virus definitions to protect against this worm. Unfortunately, this arrived minutes before a group of us took the network admin out to lunch for his 50th birthday. So no one got the message. When we returned from lunch, we found nearly every computer in the company infected.

        One of our employees had opened an infected attachment. Bugbear selected
  • surprised (Score:3, Funny)

    by deuist (228133) <ryanaycock@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:22AM (#6329738) Homepage
    I think real news here is not that people are writing viri for profit, but that ZDnet is still operating. Seriously, I thought that they went out of business years ago.
  • by Glyndwr (217857) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:29AM (#6329771) Homepage Journal
    1. Write devastating super-virus
    2. Release it
    3. Destroy unsuspecting internet
    4. ???
    5. Profit!

    ObSlashdotJoke aside, I always wondered where step 4 came in. Clearly, from the number of viruses doing the rounds now, bragging rights alone is enough of a draw for many; equally clearly, from the vast weight of bugs in viruses, it primarly draws teenage l33t hax0rs with more testosterone than talent.

    All the devestation of every trojan and virus in history has been without a clear step 4. The addition of a step 4 worries me a lot, and as has been said before [slashdot.org] even non-Windows people like me can't feel smug and safe forever.
    • 1. Write devastating super-virus
      2. Release it
      3. Destroy unsuspecting internet
      4. ???
      5. Profit!

      Actually step 4 could be "Sell copy of virus to PR-conscious anti-virus provider (Symantec, etc.) 48 hours before releasing said virus, allowing them time to create antidote and appear as world-saving super-heroes.

  • by rediguana (104664) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:38AM (#6329814)
    viral marketing! ;)
  • DDoS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Megane (129182) on Monday June 30, 2003 @08:58AM (#6329936) Homepage
    So now DDoS also means Distributed Distribution of Spam?

    In one of the first of these that I saw back in May, the spammer apparently hadn't yet learned the art of using the Bcc: header, and all the addresses it was being sent to were clearly harvested from one newsgroup that I regularly read (and post in). That's how I knew it was spammed, and not just an "address book dipper" virus. And for some time, people have been spamming binaries pictures newsgroups with .exe attachments.

    I'm glad to do my part in creating a diverse computing environment by running OS X instead of the leading virus-ridden OS. Is there any truth to the rumor that Microsoft is going to rename Outlook Express as ActiveVirus[tm]? :-)

  • by ToadMan8 (521480) on Monday June 30, 2003 @09:21AM (#6330072)
    Simply, those writing spam e-mails are trying to sell something. Spam is (for the most part, before more than now) legal. Taking over drone computers (hacking / virii) to send your spam e-mail is not. You have to make money from your business somehow. If you send spam from infected / hacked computers sending people to your website that obviously collects money for something... well, you have to have a name behind money collection. Someone has to own the paypal account or the charge vendor account... They will find you simply enough. In my mind this whole concept is bogus, as you can't hack or infect and send advertisments. That's like advertising Giant Eagle by spraypainting your daily sales on the front of buildings.
    • You miss the point - why do you connect the company selling a product with the spammer advertising it?

      Often, there is an advertising company that charges $1500 or so to "advertise" your product for you. They then pay subcontractors to actually send it.

      Also, often the company with the product gets told the advertising company's list is 100% opt-in. Then, they turn it over to subs with "send this to your list - any list" and include these email addresses...

      Until you make "spam" illegal to send out, you will

      • UPS can't ship Cocaine. It's illegal to do so. Regardless weather the dealer told them it was powdered sugar or not, UPS is either responsible for being part of the transaction or they can plea bargain out and tattle on the dealer himself.

        The advertising companies first of all can't use virii to send spam. Secondarily, and in direct response to your objection, they can't claim they thought their illegal practice is legal because of what they heard from the company they are advertising for. Ignorance is
      • Often, there is an advertising company that charges $1500 or so to "advertise" your product for you. They then pay subcontractors to actually send it.

        And if this money isn't trackable, the Internal/Inland Revenue people are going to be very interested in finding out why. Al Capone wasn't done in by the G-men (FBI), he was done in by the T-men (IRS).

      • You miss the point - why do you connect the company selling a product with the spammer advertising it?

        If that connection is made, then some companies are in trouble. One is Symantec. I got plenty of spam offering Symantec products in a notorious spam campaign that happened some time ago. Recently a new campaign [go.com] started where you get a too-good-to-be-true offer on Symantec products. Except the download isn't from Symantec, it comes from the spammer- meaning you could be running a trojan.

        Reminds me of a na
  • It's true (Score:5, Informative)

    by paranode (671698) on Monday June 30, 2003 @09:42AM (#6330189)
    I run honeypots and work in security and I can tell you firsthand that this is definitely an accurate conclusion to draw. People exploit Windows boxes all the time and the only things I ever see them do with them are opening up spam relays or hooking it up as a bot to a warez IRC channel. There's absolutely no skill involved, it's just script kiddies with automated tools taking advantage of lazy Windozers who forget to set SQL passwords or ever patch their system with the latest updates. It's pathetic, and it really makes me think that spam can never be stopped no matter how much legislation gets passed.
    • it's not legislation that needs to be passed, it's enforcement of existing laws on the books that needs to be performed.

      nearly every spam being sent these days violates some federal or state law. relay rape = criminal trespass, theft of service. sending from trojaned computers = breaking+entering, criminal trespass, theft of service, unjust enrichment. not to mention most spam just by content are fraud (penis enlargement, make money fast, etc) or criminal (advance fee fraud schemes).

      if law enforcement wou
  • Then... (Score:3, Funny)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday June 30, 2003 @10:10AM (#6330380)
    Then they'll try to sue the anti-virus companies for blocking their advertising.
  • by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Monday June 30, 2003 @11:14AM (#6330962) Homepage
    Spammers may be unethical and act illegally! More at 11!

  • My boss checked his e-mail sent over the weekend and discovered that over 2/3 of it was caught by the ISP's spam filter. A very large percentage of what wasn't captured was also spam, so there was time wasted in disposing of that. I believe that spam will eventually be outlawed, but the service providers need to do more on their end to prevent the spread of spam by restricting access to SMTP servers and ports. The idea of scanning attachments is good, but you also run the risk of deleting something that
  • the synergy between virus writers and anti-virus companies?

    Seriously, WHY do you suppose MS hasn't made their product more secure from viruses? Probably getting kickbacks from McAfee.

    I've always thought there just had to be some connection. After all, consider the sheer numbers of new viruses, and the fact that 99.999% of 'hackers' (and by that I mean people bent on causing online trouble) are script-kiddies, that doesn't leave a lot of people out there talented enough to write the code. Also, it seems
  • Okay, you have a firewall and a virus scanner. But all of this is for naught if you yourself push the button or your software pushes the button. In either case, your system gets hosed and you have hours of work ahead of you to fix things.

    Most virii are currently Windows based. The gut feeling would be to avoid that platform and choose something more resistant like Linux or MacOSX.

    If you can't step away from Windows, then step away from the applications on Windows which can make your life suck: Outlook/Out

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