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Send-Safe spam tool gang evicted by MCI

Botnet utility made homeless

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US telco MCI has caved in to mounting pressure and booted a site that sells spamming software off its network. Send-safe.com, which sells a package that uses broadband-connected PCs infected by viruses such as SoBig to distribute junk mail, has been left searching for a permanent home after 18 months with MCI.

Send-Safe.com moved briefly to a Russian hosting firm over the weekend, before pitching up on Lycos's Tripod network for around six hours before once again getting evicted. The site is currently out of commission but the Send Safe software remains operational.

Send Safe is integral to the illegal trade in compromised PCs, according to anti-spam organisation Spamhaus, which led a sustained campaign to force MCI to kick send-safe.com and other proxy spam gangs off its network. Spamhaus accuses MCI of being on the wrong side of the fight against junk mail by acting as a safe haven for spammers in general, as well as hosting send-safe.com.

Steve Linford, director of Spamhaus, said that MCI has not changed its policy and only got rid of Send-Safe.com because "the amount of heat it was getting was too much to handle". Spamhaus was supported in its campaign to hold MCI to account over its business relationship with Send-Safe.com by organisations such as the London Internet Exchange. "Nobody else in the West will host Send-Safe, but we still expect to be fighting its developers for years," he added.

More than 70 per cent of spam comes from PCs infected with viruses or trojans, according to Spamhaus. By using compromised machines (proxies in spammer parlance) - instead of open mail relays or unscrupulous hosts - spammers can bypass basic anti-spam defences, such as IP address blacklists. According to Spamhaus, 80,000-100,000 new PCs every week are infected, leading to ever increasing volumes of spam. The latest version of Send-Safe enables spammers to use hijacked proxies to send the spam out via the upstream ISP's main mail server, instead of from an infected machine itself.

Send-Safe posted a notice during its brief spell at Lycos stating that a free version of the tool would be released on 7 March. Linford said this would make little difference to Send-Safe's business model. The initial price of the software is low and Send-Safe's developer, Ruslan Ibragimov, makes his money by selling subscriptions to lists of freshly-infected proxies to users, according to Spamhaus. ®

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MCI 'makes $5m a year from spam gangs'
EU and Asia unite against spammers
Malware, spam prompts mass net turn off
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Related link

Write up of Send-Safe by security firm F-Secure

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