I enjoy listening to the NPR technology podcast most weeks, and last night heard the episode from May 17th, “Spammers Win, Anti-Spam Software Firm Shuts Down.” This is really alarming. Apparently the company, Blue Security Inc. (their website is now offline) found an effective way to fight spammers– fighting fire with fire, but the much more powerful spammers fought back and actually won– forcing the company out of the spam fighting business. A Russian-based spam company “took down major portions of the Internet” as a result of Blue Security’s software and actions– and forced the company to close shop.

The Washington Post also ran a story on this titled, “In the Fight Against Spam E-Mail, Goliath Wins Again.” In it the author wrote:

Then, earlier this month, a Russia-based spammer counterattacked, Reshef said. Using tens of thousands of hijacked computers, the spammer flooded Blue Security with so much Internet traffic that it blocked legitimate visitors from going to Bluesecurity.com, as well as to other Web sites. The spammer also sent another message: Cease operations or Blue Security customers will soon find themselves targeted with virus-filled attacks.

I have read and heard previously about mafia-style intimidation rackets that internationally-based groups are carrying out against Internet companies, essentially getting extortion money through the threat of attack by their armies of spyware-controlled “zombie computers” distributed around the world. This sounds like something out of a science fiction movie or “The Godfather” movie series, but unfortunately it is reality.

The Washington Post article mentions a possible FBI investigation, but obviously law enforcement on issues like this must be international in scope. Hopefully police forces around the world can cooperate to more effectively deal with this type of lawless behavior. If you are looking for evidence that the cyberfrontier is analogous to the “Wild West” of the United States prior to 1900, these articles make that point quite persuasively. 🙁

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