And now for something completely different: Good news on spam
SEC beats up on pump-and-dump junk mail
In the ever-escalating world of cyber insecurity, it's rare to find good news. And yet the Security and Exchange Commission on Thursday did just that as it reviewed data showing stock-touting junk mail has dropped significantly since a tough anti-spam campaign kicked off in March.
Spam related to financial services comprised 21 per cent of all junk mail in the first six months of this year, down from 30 per cent during the last six months of 2006, according to a recent report from Symantec. The drop came even as the overall amount of spam rose, said Doug Bowers, senior director of anti-abuse engineering at Symantec. He added that financial junk mail was just 13 per cent in September.
Symantec attributes the drop to the SEC's antispam initiative, in which the agency temporarily suspends trading of penny stocks that are the subjects of pump-and-dump spam. Since March, the SEC has suspended securities trading in 42 companies, agency spokesman Bruce Karpati said. The move effectively pre-empts scammers' ability to profit from the phony emails.
"If the SEC stops trading on stocks being promoted through spam, then the price won't be driven up and spammers won't be able to make money,"
The SEC has also seen a decline in the number of items submitted to its online complaint center. More than one million complaints were made in the last half of 2006, compared with 727,313 for the first six months of this year. The agency fielded just 67,785 complaints in September, compared with 166,741 in February, the month before the anti-spam initiative was launched.
Just around the corner
Pump-and-dump emails typically tout "big news" just around the corner that is sure to drive up the stock price of an unknown company and encourages the recipient to buy while the price is still low. When the shares rise, the scammers sell previously bought stock at a profit.
A single spam campaign can cause stock prices and trading volume to spike, as was the case in mid-December, when mass email touting Apparel Manufacturing Associates (Ticker: APPM) caused the shares to soar from six cents to 45 cents in five days. The number of shares trading hands rose as much as 138-fold.
On Thursday, the SEC suspended trading for three companies that "haven't provided adequate and accurate information about themselves to the investing public". All three - Alliance Transcription Services (ATSS), Prime Petroleum Group (PPGU) and T.W. Christian (TWCI) have recently changed names and are being quoted under new ticker symbols, according to the SEC.
That makes them "susceptible to spam stock promotions because they have inadequately disclosed" key details including assets, business operations and current financial condition, according to the SEC. ®
Re: "That gives me an idea... "
"...our research indicates that in the next few days, Microsoft (MSFT) will be releasing a new vwersion of their "Vista" operating system that isn't craptastic bloatware, and ACTUALLY WORKS! This is going to be BIG NEWS and is expected to drive their stock prices into the stratosphere. The time to buy is NOW!"
Too many crooks spoil the rip-off?
Maybe the pump-and-dumpers are finding that bigger fish are swimming in and consuming their profits.
There are hundreds of investment houses around the world, earning their bread and Colombian frosting by trying to work out which shares are going to rise or fall. In between liquid lunches and frequent nostril-to-desktop action, they scan the markets and news across the world, looking for anything that might affect share prices. For such an establishment, it would be worth setting up a standalone PC with a few spam-magnet email accounts, and getting someone junior to collate together the pump-and-dump emails and provide hourly reports to the traders, with trends.
Professional traders in an investment house would probably have better access to the markets, and could probably beat the spammers to the punch when it came to selling off the inflated shares. Or, as the shares picked for pump-and-dumps are usually inferior performers and unlikely to recover quickly after the pump-and-dump treatment, the investment house might just decide to sell off any holdings they have in that company immediately. It wouldn't take many such investment houses to make the value of a pumped share collapse before any ill-gotten gains could be reaped from it.
Ain't life just tough all over!
A lower proportion doesn't mean there's less of it
"I haven't seen any reduction."
Me neither, just a bigger increase in everything else: 50-100 spams daily (not including the numerous non-deliveries to the fake address lists sold to halfwits and other annoyances) six months ago, 200-250 daily now. I'm afraid it's a bit of a stretch to call that "good news" of any sort really, other than for the spammers' ability to waste even more of everyone else's time and resources.