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China spam crisis provokes researcher's ire

Name and shame campaign aims to change attitudes

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A security researcher is calling for action against Chinese internet firms which are failing to protect their services from abuse by cybercrooks.

Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at the University of Alabama, singles out domain name registrars eName and Xin Net Technology for particular criticism for what he describes as the "Spam Crisis in China".

Warner criticises eName and Xin Net not because they are themselves criminal but because "these companies have provided 'reseller services' to criminals, and do not engage themselves proactively in stopping the criminal activities of their resellers". Furthermore, eName and Xin Net "refuse to cooperate with abuse complaints and who let domains 'live forever', even when they are involved in criminal activity".

eName, for example, has consistently failed to act on complaints to disconnect domains associated with the Waledec botnet.

More than half of all junk mail messages either use domain names registered in China, is sent via computers in China, or points back to spamvertised pages hosted in China. Warner also criticises network operators (for failing to act on complaints on compromised PCs) and Chinese law enforcement for contributing to the problem.

For years China has been a major provider of so-called bullet-proof hosting services, where cybercrooks pay a premium for internet services on the understanding that ISPs and domain registrars will turn a blind eye to complaints. Organisations such as Spamhaus have forged contacts with local ISPs, but this alone has not been enough to turn back the tide.

China's hard-pressed Computer Emergency Response Teams have also worked hard and been receptive to complaints, but this too has failed to resolve a problem that calls for the broadest possible response from local business leaders and the Chinese government.

Walker, a former activist at anti-phishing organisation CastleCops, has gone public with his criticism in the hope of persuading the Chinese internet community to act on the problem.

Previous name-and-shame campaigns have successfully achieved change in Hong Kong, where representatives of HSBC and law enforcement were able to help local internet firm HKDNR to clean up its act. As a result spam volumes dropped by 92 per cent by June 2008, 15 months after the publication of the original criticism. ®

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