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The Russian Mafia Doesn't Like Spam Either 451

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the think-twice-before-sending dept.
wattrlz writes "Apparently the current champion of v1*gr4 spamming solicited some of the wrong email boxes. Alexy Tolstokozhev was recently found murdered in his palatial spam-bought estate near Moscow. The implications of this hands on method of system administration are staggering." Update: 10/12 15:28 GMT by Z : Good story. Unfortunately, probably a fake.
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The Russian Mafia Doesn't Like Spam Either

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  • That explains it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Thursday October 11, 2007 @06:52PM (#20947103) Homepage Journal

    I noticed a drop in spam over the past week and figured another big arrest had been made, which would be in the news. Well .. an arrest of sorts.

    While I don't advocate the killing of spammers, it's hard to argue with results. What I do wonder is if this is a hit from a rival spammer. Where do we see evidence spam was sent to the wrong person? Begin notorious in Russia is a bit unhealthy, particularly when you have large amounts of money and no bodyguards.

    From another source: []

    It won't be surprising to hear of an Organizatsiya connection, should the authorities probe the murder deeply.

    To do that they'd probably need a supply of pills conventiently and discretely distributed.

    BTW, here's the original source of the news []

    Russian Viagra and Penis Enlargement Spammer Murdered

    Posted on October 11th, 2007 by admin and filed under Uncategorized.

    Wow, just saw this on TV, so I decided to translate this story into English so my readers will be first to learn this. Sorry for mistakes in my English, I'm doing this in a hurry :)

    Alexey Tolstokozhev (btw, in Russian his name means 'Thick Skin'), a Russian spammer, found murdered in his luxury house near Moscow. He has been shot several times with one bullet stuck in his head. According to authorities, this last head shot is a clear mark of russian hit men (known as "killers" in Russia).

    Who hated Tolstokozhev so much as to hire a hit man to assasinate him? Well, I guess you have about one billion e-mail users to suspect. Tolstokozhev was a famous spammer who sent millions of e-mail promoting viagra, cialis, penis enlargement pills and other medications. Links in these e-mails usually led to some pharmacy shop, which paid Tolstokozhev a share of its revenue. This is a well known affiliate scheme employed by spammers worldwide.

    Tolstokozhev is estimated to be responsible for up to 30% percent of all viagra and penis enlargement related spam.

    In order to send millions and millions of unsolicited letters, Tolstokozhev employed a network of infected computers (so-called "botnet"), which he rented from hackers.

    How profitable is spam? Well, the authorities say that Tolstokozhev has likely made more than $2 million in 2007 alone. (in comparison: average russian monthly salary is $400)

    This is a second murder of a spammer in Russia. Another russian spammer, Vardan Kushnir, was assassinated in 2005.

    "Violent murders is a clear sign that spam becomes a serious criminal activity" - the officials say. "Easy money attracts criminals, which bring their own version of "justice" with them."
  • by Kev_Stewart (737140) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @06:55PM (#20947135)
    ...against many people. balanced with one huge crime against one person. sort of makes sense?
  • Not the first time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by billstewart (78916) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @06:56PM (#20947143) Journal
    The article mentions a 2005 murder in Russia, but there were also a couple of spammers in New Jersey who got murdered a few years ago, and the general rumor was that they'd annoyed some New York City Russian mafiosi in a stock scam.
  • Re:That explains it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by modecx (130548) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @07:08PM (#20947293)
    Personally, I doubt that he got assassinated because someone hated him. He probably got whacked because he refused to pay the mob for his cut for illicit activities on their turf--and being an asshole was simply icing on the cake.
  • Fake Story? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XenoPhage (242134) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @07:09PM (#20947301) Homepage
    For what it's worth, this story appears to be fake. The story appears to have originated from this site : []

    If you check the whois info on this site, it was created on October 11, 2007, today. Yet the site shows archives going back to February 2007? Archives which are "disabled' because of high traffic..

    Next, if you search for both the name of the spammer, Alexey Tolstokozhev, or the site,, you only get links pointing back to as the originator of the story.

    So it appears that this story is a fraud.
  • by jemenake (595948) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @07:17PM (#20947425)

    I know that nobody likes spammers, but why does that make this murder justified?
    Well, let's not even look at the monetary cost that it imposes on servers handling the spam mails. Let's just look at the amount of actual *life* consumed. Let's say that it takes you 2 seconds to flag a spam as such and drop it in your spam box. That's 2 man-seconds. The numbers I see thrown around are that these spammers can send out upwards of 100 million spams per day. 2 man-seconds multiplied by 100 million per day comes to 2 million man-seconds a spammer potentially costs the world each day. That's around 1.5 man-years each day. So, if he's in operation for just 50 days, he's already cost the world 75 man-years.... that's 1 man-life.

    Now, the first counter-argument to this is probably "Aw... c'mon... but it's spread out over millions of people so it's no big impact on any one person!". To that, I refer back to the mid 80's. Remember when there were a few years of some clever programmer hacking a bank's computer to transfer 1 penny from a million accounts into his own? Or to move fractions of cents so that the bank statements still rounded to the same numbers? We treated them like they had stolen the net sum a single person, didn't we?

    Granted, spam filters catch a lot of the spam. But even if they catch 90%, that leaves us to deal with the remaining 10%... which only means that the guy would have to be in business for 500 days (fewer than two years) to cost a man-life.

    Frankly, what *I* am rooting for is for them to capture a spammer, torture him mercilessly and get it all on tape and put it up on YouTube. I doubt that public executions would deter most murders, but I think that seeing and hearing one of their bretheren scream for mercy as each foot is sawn off would give many spammers pause.
  • by Ash Vince (602485) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @07:24PM (#20947507) Journal
    The last russian spammer who was killed specialised in Russian language spam advertising his own "American Language Center". The idea was that they taught you American (ie - English) and then you used that to get your own job (yup, no placement or visa included).

    Apparently this guy sent out tons of spam inside Russia and managed to annoy too many people with the sheer volume, making a small fortune in the process.

    Then he was found beaten to death. According to the Wired article I remember reading some time ago (link posted below) the people who killed him really took their time to make sure he suffered. No bullets are mentioned, although a lot of blood and a very sound kicking is. Then the police just swept the whole thing under the carpet.

    I really would recommend that anyone who gets pissed off when they receive spam read the link the below. It cured me as I actually felt sorry for him by then end: []
  • And this is why Blue Security's approach was the correct one. It delivered justice in a bloodless way. Now that Blue Security's gone, and that the code is lost, we're back to the drawing board.

    If only Google took on the project... :(
  • by pluther (647209) < minus pi> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @07:34PM (#20947613) Homepage
    Mark Twain wrote that "There are three kinds of homicide: Felonious, justifiable, and praiseworthy."
  • Re:Sign me up! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rene S. Hollan (1943) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @07:35PM (#20947631)
    Ah, you haven't heard of the "Bell Box".

    The "Bell Box" was essentially a computer, designed to accept anonymous wagers, cryptographically signed with an included public key, as to when, where, and how, someone would die.

    The point was not really to wager on someone's death. No, the point was that very unpopular people would have such a large pool of small wagers accumulated, that at some point, the risk of getting caught for the murder would be perceived to be less than the payoff for predicting the exact circumstances of the death and seeing to it that they occured.

    Combine the Bell Box with the banking secrecy laws in some countries, and, well...

    IIRC, the inventor was arrested for having invented it, as a terrorist, but I have no evidence to back that up. No known prototype was ever made.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @07:37PM (#20947663) Journal

    I think its possible that the mafia is expanding into spam business - or that they were demanding a cut of the action and where rebuked.

    That would be my take as well. This just rings of organized crime "moving in". You saw the same thing in the olden days when the rum runners were "consolidated" by guys like Al Calpone.

    The message here is clear to all Russian online scammers; give us a cut or they'll be picking pieces of you off the floor.
  • Re:Fake Story? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @08:36PM (#20948145) Journal
    Read the McAfee writeup - they (McAfee) don't give any proof that this didn't actually happen! Just the fact that the original article referfences an earlier such case (which turned out not to be "such" - i.e. the previous murder wasn't related to spamming (although it was related to mafia)).
  • by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@brouhaha.cDEBIANom minus distro> on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:16PM (#20948439) Homepage Journal

    The rational part of my brain says "yeah spamming is bad, but the punishment should fit the crime."
    Sure! How would we do that?

    Suppose a spammer sends 300 million spams in a campaign, and 10% reach people's inboxes. The average recipient takes 3 seconds to look at the subject line and delete the spam. The spammer runs 100 such campaigns a year. In total, in the course of one year that one spammer has wasted 285 person-years of other people's lives. If someone kills him, he's gotten off lucky compared to a punishment that would truly fit the crime.

    A truly just punishment would be to torture him continuously, while using every known medical means to keep him alive indefinitely (as far beyond a normal human life span as possible). And even that wouldn't really do it, because it would probably just drive him (more) insane and catatonic in a few weeks or months.

    Perhaps the appropriate form of torture would be the spam equivalent of the Ludovico Technique [], but carried out for as long as the spammer can be kept alive.

  • by iapetus (24050) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:28PM (#20948525) Homepage
    Good analysis.

    Of course it's also possible that he took an existing amusing checklist [] and added the references to Russia to it because they're relevant to this particular story. You can work this out by any of the following methods:

    a) Comparing the posted version to the original linked above.
    b) Noticing that the additions were made in crayon.
    c) Getting a sense of humour, or borrowing one from someone who isn't using theirs.

    It's also possible that not every attempt at humour is a thinly veiled assault on the former Soviet Union.
  • by Pooua (265915) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:43PM (#20948657) Homepage
    "So it's the death penalty for sending out unwanted e-mail now? I thought Larry Niven's idea of society accepting capital punishment for minor crimes was laughable, but maybe he wasn't so far off the mark."

    If someone were to bump into me as I walked along the sidewalk, it would be annoying, but ignorable. If he did it every day, I would become irritated, maybe even complain about him to authorities for assault and battery. But, if he did it several times a day, and the governments of the world failed to stop him from doing it, there would come a time when I would probably try to kill him.

    Believe me, the thought of buying an international plane ticket and a weapon has crossed my mind many times.
  • by marcello_dl (667940) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:46PM (#20948687) Homepage Journal
    > My feelings are less "that poor man!" and more "probably not the best way to solve the problem".

    Yep, best way imho would be 15 seconds of social services per email sent for spammers (= life) and fine those who buy things from spammers.

    Death to all spammers is a close second, though :)
  • by quantaman (517394) on Thursday October 11, 2007 @09:46PM (#20948695)

    Then he was found beaten to death. According to the Wired article I remember reading some time ago (link posted below) the people who killed him really took their time to make sure he suffered. No bullets are mentioned, although a lot of blood and a very sound kicking is. Then the police just swept the whole thing under the carpet.

    I really would recommend that anyone who gets pissed off when they receive spam read the link the below. It cured me as I actually felt sorry for him by then end: []
    Actually I lost sympathy for him as I read the article. I mean he showed absolutely no remorse about the damage he caused and actually seemed to enjoy the fact that his spam was causing so many problems. Also despite the fact he was making loads of money from his operation he withheld pay from his employees.

    Who knows how biased the wired article is but from their profile he seemed to be an astonishingly self-centred person who didn't care about anyone else at all. I don't believe in the death penalty and thus don't endorse murder by a long shot, but there's many a murderer I've felt more sympathy for than this individual.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2007 @01:19AM (#20949895)
    You seem to take the point of view that human life has an intrinsic positive value, no matter what.

    In civil society, human life does have a value, but it isn't necessarily a positive value.

    Spammers, those who create botnets, those who snatch purses, those who beat up gays just because they are gay, people who break the law because they want to torture people, these are examples of people are at a negative value.

    How negative is an open question, how negative someone's value has to be before torturing or killing them is an open question. I completely reject the attitude that the death penalty is heinous and wrong. What, then, about torture? Good question. I have the (now) misfortune to live in America during the imperial presidency and gutless wonders in Congress, and they think torture always OK. Would I want to have the veep and pres and those supporting their position (e.g. Gonzalez) get a taste of their own medicine? Well, one advantage is that we could ask them afterwards and get an answer with experience behind it from both ends.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Friday October 12, 2007 @03:08AM (#20950303) Homepage Journal
    From what I've read about this in non-English news sources, his spam operation was part of russian mafia operations, and he was likely killed for unauthorized "side business".

    As for his "luxury palace", I'm not sure a one bedroom (two-room) apartment in a run-down district of Moscow qualifies. Granted, rent is probably as high in Moscow as in other capitals, but...
  • by arivanov (12034) on Friday October 12, 2007 @04:53AM (#20950659) Homepage

    to commit the crime unhindered

    Err... No. Read the original novel. It is so controversial that it is has not been reprinted for the last 15+ years so you need to dig through the library. I will provide some of the key points in order not to spoil it here and suggest you think again:

    • First of all - it is not unhindered. It is unpunished. So there is nothing ridiculous. If we consider 12 years worth of building civilisation in a lethal environment to be a fitting punishment for a crime there should be no difference if the punishment is administered before or after.
    • Second, the person serving the term in advance can quit at any time, but his term will not count at all. If you quit 1 day before the 12 years which you are supposed to serve you get zilch. You do not get the right to commit a crime which fits a lesser punishment.
    • Coming back to the unhindered one - once you have served your "term in advance" you have 6 months to commit the crime and what crime you have served in advance is a matter of the public record. If your victim blows your head off in selfdefence - your problem. If you get blown into bits when robbing a bank because every bank in the world has your face loaded in their security system as "served a bank robbery in advance" - your problem. If your mark manages to hide successfully for the 6 months in question - your problem again.

    I suggest you think again. The idea is weird, but it definitely has a lot of merit (same as replacing the Victorian Australia with whatever we now have closest to it).
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Friday October 12, 2007 @09:02AM (#20952123) Journal
    Well, see, the old definition of "liberal" (before in the US conservatives managed to redefine it to be some commie-mutant-traitor kinda pejorative) meant... well, the best way to explain it, is what nowadays is called "libertarian". Sorta. Conservatives were for the good ol', tried-and-tested power of the land-owners and top-down way to run an economy (with the king and landowners being "top" and you being "down"), liberals were for a more laissez-faire kind of economy. Let private initiative and the free market take care of everything. That kinda thing.

    That was the kind of liberalism that produced (and was produced by) the industrial revolution, which repelled the corn laws, etc.

    And it seems to me that this case is as liberal as it gets there. The government wasn't involved, private initiative (of a rich mafioso) led to the optimal solution, and I'm sure that a free market and supply-and-demand economics were involved somehow too. (E.g., he has to pay a competitive wage to the hitmen, based on supply and demand;)

    Heck, you can pretty much see Adam Smith's "invisible hand" metaphor in action there. To someone it the death of a spammer was worth more than whatever else he could have bought with that money -- and with the prices and wages in Russia, that must have been a lot of other stuff that could have been bought with the money -- and someone provided a supply for that demand. That's the kind of thing the wealth of nations is built upon.

    Caution: some sarcasm may have been involved. I know that's not exactly what Adam Smith was advocating, but hey... An invisible hand beating the snot out of a spammer. Now that's a metaphor I can't resist ;)

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain