10/9/2009 -Internet Spam Is a Cash Cow
Ever wonder how why annoying spam e-mails flood your in box with offers of cheap Viagra and exotic prescription drugs you have no desire to ingest? Spam mail is actually a very profitable business. It has enormous profit margins and requires a minuscule amount of effort, which explains why spam mail is prevalent. Check out this article by Jacqui Cheng sharing more details on how spam e-mail operates. When your done head back to blackboard for the quiz and extra credit!
Pharmaceutical spam can generate more than $4,000 per day in sales, confirming that spam continues to thrive because of those gullible few who click through and ruin it for the rest of us. And that’s not just an estimate: a security researcher from Sophos have combed through sales logs as part of his investigation into the growth of spam networks, noting that Russian affiliate partner networks—also known as “partnerka”—are responsible for some of the largest Canadian pharmacy spam businesses.
Dmitry Samosseiko’s report, “The Partnerka — what is it, and why should you care?” focuses largely on these Russian networks and how they drive traffic, advertising, and more. Not surprisingly, online pharmaceuticals tend to be a very popular affiliate business, with one of the largest being one called GlavMed. GlavMed itself claims to be strongly anti-spam, but it has a sister company called “SpamIt,” a private group of e-mail spam affiliates that researchers suspect are also behind the Storm, Waledec, and Conﬁcker botnets.
Samosseiko discovered a wide-open PHP backend to GlavMed that contained evidence that the company is indeed set up to benefit largely from spammers. This involves e-commerce software for spammers to launch their own GlavMed copies or to simply set up domains that redirect to GlavMed. Additionally, some of the documents Samosseiko discovered were sales records, giving a glimpse into the purchasing behavior of GlavMed’s targets.
According to the sales records from GlavMed, there were apparently more than 20 purchases per day per spam campaign, with GlavMed claiming a 40 percent commission on each sale. With an average purchase of around $200, that adds up to over $4,000 total per day per campaign (or $1,600 for GlavMed). As you can imagine, that total easily multiplies if more than one spam blast is run per day thanks to different affiliates, and it continues to skyrocket when we consider how many different online pharmacies exist that benefit from spam, including Stimul-cash.com, Rx-partners, Rxcash.biz, Evapharmacy, Rx-Signup.com and DrugRevenueget.
Clearly, the amount of cash being made makes spamming a worthwhile investment—even a small percentage of users making purchases can result in big returns. Earlier this year, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) released a report stating that 52 percent of e-mail users had clicked on a spam e-mail, with 12 percent of those doing so because they were actually interested in the product or service being offered. “Although a small percentage of the computing population, these numbers still earn a significant enough return on investment to support a booming spam-driven underground economy,” wrote MAAWG.
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