[ISN] Spammers 'tricking ISPs' into sending junk mail

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Thu Feb 3 01:12:03 EST 2005


Dan Ilett
February 02, 2005

Spam levels are about to skyrocket, according to experts who warned
this week that spammers have developed a new way of delivering their

According to SpamHaus -- an anti-spam organisation which compiles
blacklists blocking eight billion messages a day -- a new piece of
malware has been created that takes over a PC and then uses it to send
spam via the mail server of that PC's Internet service provider. This
means the spam appears to come from the ISP, making it very hard for
an anti-spam blacklist to block it.

Previously, these zombie PCs have been used as mail servers to send
spam emails directly to recipients.

"The Trojan is able to order proxies to send spam upstream to the
ISP," said Steve Linford, director of SpamHaus.

Linford believes that this Trojan was written by the same people who
write spamming software.

Reports suggest that ISPs in the US have already been hit. "We've seen
a surge in spam coming from major ISPs. Now all of the ISPs are having
large amounts of spam going out from their mail servers," said

This will cause serious problems for email infrastructures as it is
impractical to block domain names from large ISPs. Linford predicts
that ISPs will see a growth in the volume of bulk mail they send and
receive over the next two months, with spam levels rising from75
percent of all email to around 95 percent within a year.

"The email infrastructure is beginning to fail," Linford warned.  
"You'll see huge delays in email and servers collapsing. It's the
beginning of the email meltdown."

Linford said that ISPs need to act fast to take control of the
problem. "They've got to throttle the number of emails coming from
ADSL accounts. They are going to have to act quickly to clean incoming
viruses. ISPs have so much spam -- they are too understaffed to call
people up and tell them they have Trojans on their machines. And no
one would know what you're talking about."

ISPs BT and Thus didn't respond to requests for comment on this issue.

Anti-spam company MessageLabs confirmed Linford's findings.

"This ups the ante in the need for filters," said Mark Sunner, chief
technology officer for MessageLabs. "It makes it more difficult for
people who compile black lists, which is why spammers are doing this.  
It will put more pressure on ISPs to take greater interest in the
traffic they carry and filter at source."

The Information Commissioner's Office, the UK's point of call to
report about spam, said it had received no complaints of bulk spam
from ISPs. A statement from the ICO said, "As you are aware the ICO's
role is to enforce the regulations (the Privacy and Electronic
Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. If it receives
complaints regarding spam, the ICO needs to establish the source of
the spam to take action. The ICO then contacts the company concerned."

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