Ramblings & ephemera

The purpose of the Storm botnet? To send spam

From Tim Wilson’s “Researchers Link Storm Botnet to Illegal Pharmaceutical Sales” (DarkReading: 11 June 2008):

“Our previous research revealed an extremely sophisticated supply chain behind the illegal pharmacy products shipped after orders were placed on botnet-spammed Canadian pharmacy Websites. But the relationship between the technology-focused botnet masters and the global supply chain organizations was murky until now,” said Patrick Peterson, vice president of technology at IronPort and a Cisco fellow.

“Our research has revealed a smoking gun that shows that Storm and other botnet spam generates commissionable orders, which are then fulfilled by the supply chains, generating revenue in excess of $150 million per year.”

In fact, the “Canadian Pharmacy” Website, which many Storm emails promote, is estimated to have sales of $150 million per year by itself, the report says. The site offers a customer service phone number that goes into voice mail and buyers usually do receive the drugs — but the shipments include counterfeit pharmaceuticals from China and India, rather than brand-name drugs from Canada, IronPort says.

IronPort’s research revealed that more than 80 percent of Storm botnet spam advertises online pharmacy brands. This spam is sent by millions of consumers’ PCs, which have been infected by the Storm worm via a multitude of sophisticated social engineering tricks and Web-based exploits. Further investigation revealed that spam templates, “spamvertized” URLs, Website designs, credit card processing, product fulfillment, and customer support were being provided by a Russian criminal organization that operates in conjunction with Storm, IronPort says.

However, IronPort-sponsored pharmacological testing revealed that two thirds of the shipments contained the active ingredient but were not the correct dosage, while the others were placebos.

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