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Russian spammer murder hoax exposed

Thick Skin yarn punctured

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A yarn that a prolific Russian spammer was whacked by Russian hit-men is increasingly looking like a hoax.

The supposed assassination of one "Alexey Tolstokozhev" in Moscow, was first reported on a website run by "Alex Loonov".

Loonov's account (at loonov.com/russian-viagra-and-penis-enlargement-spammer-murdered.htm) seemed all too plausible to the casual observer, especially since it played into public perceptions about the Russian mafia.

Alexey Tolstokozhev (btw, in Russian his name means 'Thick Skin'), a Russian spammer, found murdered in his luxury house near Moscow. He has been shot several times with one bullet stuck in his head. According to authorities, this last head shot is a clear mark of russian hit men (known as "killers" in Russia).

The story was picked up by blogs and spread rapidly across the net.

Unfortunately, the tale is a load of cobblers.

First up, the name Alexey Tolstokozhev doesn't appear on Spamhaus' ROKSO list, an odd omission for a supposedly prolific spammer. Perhaps he's managed to dodge ISP takedown orders, if not assassins bullets.

Or perhaps not.

Alexey Tolstokozhev fails to show up on any web searches either, except in the context of his supposed assassination. Informed parties, such as Sunbelt president and chief executive Alex Eckelberry, have never heard of him either.

Eckelberry did a little digging and discovered that Loonov's website, where reports of the hit first surfaced, was only registered on Tuesday and with EST Domains, an operation that has attracted complaints about hosting malware.

Loonov's website is free of malware (at least at the time of writing) but distinctly whiffy. Bloggers who first took the story at face value have begun to reverse their positions. ®

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