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Cableco 'inside job' aided Dutch 419ers

Stolen modems drove spam tsunami

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The 52 Nigerian 419ers arrested in Amsterdam earlier this year had "inside help" from cable company UPC, the company's security officer Norbert Spekking admitted last week.

Someone within UPC provided the scammers with cable modems - a fact which escaped the company because the users weren't registered. Spekking, who testified against 15 Nigerian scammers in an Amsterdam court last week, says the swindlers used these modems to churn out out thousands of scam emails.

Normally, the Dutch cable operator would not tolerate this kind of behaviour. Last year UPC's Internet subsidiary Chello summarily cut off dozens of subscribers spewing 419 emails; but the unregistered scammers continued unmonitored, at least for a while.

About a year ago UPC discovered that more than 200 cable modems had been stolen and sold to mostly hackers and spammers through an illicit company which promised lifelong cable subscriptions for just €350. In February 2003, police arrested six suspects, including one accomplice at UPC. Some of these modems may have been sold to the 419ers in Amsterdam. UPC is still investigating.

Since the arrests earlier this year in what is believed to be the biggest raid of its kind, almost no 419 spam has been sent through UPC's network. Scam emails purporting to come from Winners Rainbow Lotto or Pinga Kasenda, son of the late foreign affairs minister to the Federal Republic of Zaire, have since been monitored arriving via ASDL providers Zonnet and Bbned. ®

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