A war won with Spam

Hormel Spiced Ham, the “father” of Spam, was created in 1927 as an inexpensive luncheon meat to help housewives stretch their budget dollars. But when the combination of cheaper competition and the Great Depression caused sales to drop, company president Jay Hormel decided in 1936 to relaunch the product with a glitzy marketing campaign and a new name.

At the New Year’s Eve party held at his home he announced a name-the-product contest with the prize winner receiving $100. The 65 guests attending had to “purchase” their drinks by completing a contest entry. Hormel recalled, “Along about the third or fourth drink they began showing some imagination.” Finally, the butler brought to Hormel a sheet of paper containing the word “Spam.”…

With the signing of Lend-Lease in March 1941, shipments of Spam were included in the aid transported to Great Britain and the Soviet Union. It was gratefully accepted by both the military and civilian populations…

When America entered the war, Spam became both the boon and bane of troops. Because it was so easy to transport in large quantities, and had a long shelf life, tons of it—ultimately more than 150 million pounds—accompanied them. Though the services purchased luncheon meats made by other companies, all looked alike. As Spam was the most famous of them, all such meats came to be called Spam. It wasn’t long before the troops, seemingly served Spam three times a day, seven days a week for the duration, got thoroughly sick of the stuff.

Now Jackson had his acorns
And Grant his precious rye;
Teddy had his poisoned beef —
Worse you couldn’t buy.
The doughboy had his hardtack
Without the navy’s jam,
But armies on their stomachs move —
And this one moves on Spam.

—Anonymous World War II poem

Apple is going to make it tougher for advertisers to track you. Facebook is pissed!


Michael Short/Getty

Sometime next month, iPhone users will start seeing a new question when they use many of the apps on their devices: Do they want the app to follow them around the internet, tracking their behavior?

It’s a simple query, with potentially significant consequences. Apple is trying to single-handedly change the way internet advertising works.

That will affect everyone, from Apple’s giant tech rivals — most notably, Facebook, which announced today that it’s fighting back against Apple’s move — to any developer or publisher that uses ad technology to monitor what their app users are doing on the internet.

And it affects you, the person reading this story. At stake is your online privacy — and the advertising system that underwrites an endless supply of free content.

Apple announced its plan in June at its annual developer’s conference. But it hasn’t generated much attention outside of ad tech circles yet.

That will likely change in mid-September when the company is expected to roll out its new operating system, iOS 14.

Looking forward to that introduction of iOS 14 for a few reasons. Their new privacy system being #1. From my perspective, it’s going to be fun.

Researchers uncover dormant botnet of 350,000 phony Twitter accounts

A massive botnet secretly infiltrated the Twitterverse in 2013 but has lain mysteriously dormant since then, say researchers.

❝ The rise of the Twitter bot has plagued the online world in recent years. These are Twitter accounts that are automated and require little or no human intervention. Many are entirely legitimate, publishing headlines and links to news stories.

But others are malicious. These Twitter bots produce spam, provide fake followers for anybody willing to pay, and can manipulate debates and public opinion in insidious ways that are hard to track and prevent. The effects of large swarms of Twitter bots — so-called botnets — are largely unknown…

❝ Today that changes thanks to the work of Juan Echeverria and Shi Zhou at University College London. These cybersecurity experts have stumbled across a Twitter botnet consisting of more than 350,000 automated accounts, a network of almost unimaginable proportions, that has existed undetected since 2013…its longevity raises serious questions about the potential impact of botnets and the way they are tracked and monitored…

❝ A simple assessment of the…accounts that created these tweets showed they had much in common. These accounts had never published more than 11 tweets, they never had more than 10 followers and less than 31 friends. They were all produced by Twitter for Windows phones.

But reading the tweets, Echeverria and Zhou realized that they all contained random quotations from Star Wars novels with hashtags inserted at random. A typical tweet is: “Luke’s answer was to put on an extra burst of speed. There were only ten meters #separating them now.”…

❝ …The researchers trained a machine-learning algorithm to recognize Star Wars bots and set it loose on a much larger database of 14 million English-speaking Twitter users.

The results were a shock. The machine-learning algorithm, with the help of some manual filtering, found some 350,000 accounts that had the same characteristics. These accounts had never tweeted more than 11 times, had fewer than 31 friends and were all produced by Twitter for Windows Phone.

What’s more, this entire botnet was created in just a few days in June and July 2013. At the time, it produced 150,000 tweets a day…Then it stopped. “When the creation of new Star Wars bots stopped on 14 July 2013, all the bots suddenly fell silent and remained so ever since…”

So what might these fake Twitter accounts be for? Although the accounts have been silent for some time, this makes them valuable since they are less likely now to be labeled as fake. For this reason, pre-aged bots have significant value on the black market…

❝ Clearly, the discovery of this giant botnet raises important questions about the extent to which the Twitterverse has been infiltrated by bots that can influence the dynamics of conversations, opinions, and even elections. The work leaves open the crucial question of who set up this botnet and why.

BTW – Echeverria and Zhou report they “…have recently discovered another botnet with more than 500k bots”.

Signal from distant star an invitation from LinkedIn

❝ Astronomers have confirmed the existence of semi-intelligent alien life with the discovery of an interstellar LinkedIn message.

The invite came from a star in the Hercules constellation and included a request to swap notes on ‘new and exciting ways’ of using Powerpoint.

❝ Professor Henry Brubaker, of the Institute for Studies, said: “This proves that we are not alone in the universe but we will probably spend a lot of time pretending we are.

“I’d always dreamt that first contact would be a sublime moment of consciousness meeting consciousness across the inky void of space but instead I’m going to have to pretend I haven’t checked my telescope for messages.”

❝ The race is now on to develop a spam filter for messages from distant planets to avoid other alien civilisations thinking humans are an easy touch and bombarding Earth with special offers for Wowcher and 38 Degrees petitions to sign.

Everyone tries to recreate The Onion. Not a bad job on this one – albeit aimed mostly at geeks.

And it did make me smile.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

OK – the bomb turned out to be 2 jars of spaghetti sauce


Hey – it could’ve been more dangerous

A woman who was caught red-handed with two jars of spaghetti sauce [har!] after robbing a bank has pleaded guilty to bank robbery and explosives charges.

According to police on April 6, Ophelia A. Neal told a clerk at the Fifth Third Bank in Clinton Township that she had a bomb in a cloth bag and demanded money.

Neal, 53, a parole absconder who has previous convictions for fraud, marijuana possession and assault, made her escape with an undisclosed amount of cash in a car driven by a man.

She was later arrested by police who scanned the cloth bag and discovered it contained two cans of spaghetti sauce.

Although the bank robbery occurred in Macomb County, Neal pleaded guilty in Oakland County Circuit Court where she was originally wanted for violating her parole.

I can think of some supermarket brands of spaghetti sauce might be as dangerous to your health over time – as a bomb. 🙂

Cellphone users can block robocalls

Consumers have a right under a federal law to revoke their consent to being contacted on their cell phones by automated dialing systems, a U.S. appeals court decided on Thursday in a defeat for computer maker Dell Inc.

Reversing a lower court ruling, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania woman, Ashley Gager, who complained that Dell hounded her with more than 40 calls in less than three weeks to collect a delinquent debt after she had sent a letter asking it to stop.

Circuit Judge Jane Roth said Congress intended the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 to protect consumers from unwanted automated calls, a conclusion supported by a 2012 Federal Communications Commission ruling in an unrelated case…

According to court papers, Gager had in 2007 filled in her cellphone number in place of her home number on an application for a Dell credit line, which the Honesdale, Pennsylvania resident used to buy thousands of dollars of computer equipment.

After Gager defaulted, Dell began leaving the automated messages, and continued doing so even after receiving a letter in December 2010 from Gager asking it to stop, the papers show…

“Dell will still be able to telephone Gager about her delinquent account,” Roth said. “The only limitation imposed by the TCPA is that Dell will not be able to use an automated dialing system to do so.”

Robocalls are useful to warn of collective emergencies. That’s it. Everything that remains is audible spam or harassment. Generally from some cheap-ass company trying to keep from paying even minimum wage to part-time workers.

One more facet of the decline in privacy in the Land where Liberty is defined by profit structures.

6 leading spam scammers busted in India – they’re all from Nigeria!

Police in India say they have arrested six foreign nationals suspected of defrauding hundreds of people using text message and email scams…

Authorities seized 14 laptops, seven memory sticks and 23 mobile phones, as well as fake documents and cash. The arrests come after security firm Kaspersky reported that India now sent more spam than any other country in the world.

Police said the six men, all Nigerian, would be remanded in custody until 12 January. The arrests signal attempts to crack down on a growing cybercrime problem in the region…

Mumbai-based internet security specialist Vijay Mukhi said poor enforcement of laws meant spammers could act with impunity.

We have an Information Technology Act that was introduced in 2000. But we don’t have any convictions under it and it’s silent on spam,” he said…If I’m a spammer, I would rather spam from India to India and the rest of world because nothing will happen to me.”

It’s still the biggest hoot of the day that the 6 spammers busted happen to be from Nigeria.

Is it because of bigotry on the part of the coppers? Easier to arrest African nationals. Or have the world’s leading spam hustlers actually started moving to India because they feel safer committing cybercrimes from there?

Feds shut down massive Coreflood cyber theft ring


Inside DHS Classified Cyber Coordination Headquarters

U.S. authorities claimed one of their biggest victories against cyber crime as they shut down a ring they said used malicious software to take control of more than 2 million PCs around the world, and may have led to theft of more than $100 million.

A computer virus, dubbed Coreflood, infected more than 2 million PCs, enslaving them into a “botnet” that grabbed banking credentials and other sensitive data its masters used to steal funds via fraudulent banking and wire transactions, the U.S. Department of Justice…

The government shuttered that botnet, which had operated for a decade, by seizing hard drives used to run it after a federal court in Connecticut gave the go-ahead.

This was big money stolen on a large scale by foreign criminals. The FBI wanted to stop it and they did an incredibly good job at it,” said Alan Paller, director of research at the SAN Institute, a nonprofit group that helps fight cyber crime.

The vast majority of the infected machines were in the United States, but the criminal gang was likely overseas…

A civil complaint against 13 unnamed foreign nationals was also filed by the U.S. district attorney in Connecticut. It accused them of wire and bank fraud. The Justice Department said it had an ongoing criminal investigation.

The malicious Coreflood software was used to infect computers with keylogging software that stole user names, passwords, financial data and other information, the Justice Department said…

U.S. government programmers shut down the Coreflood botnet on Tuesday. They also instructed the computers enslaved in the botnet to stop sending stolen data and to shut down. A similar tactic was used in a Dutch case, but it was the first time U.S. authorities had used this method to shut down a botnet, according to court documents.

Looks like Uncle Sugar is finally getting good at this. Can’t complain in the least. Shutting down black hat hackers like this is long overdue.

The hunt for Rustock spammers continues after botnet takedown

The Rustock botnet, which sent up to 30 billion spam messages per day, might have been run by two or three people. Early analysis, following raids to knock out the spam network, suggest that it was the work of a small team.

Rustock was made up of about one million hijacked PCs and employed a series of tricks to hide itself from scrutiny for years.

Since the raids on the network’s hardware, global spam levels have dropped and remain relatively low.

It does not look like there were more than a couple of people running it to me,” said Alex Lanstein, a senior engineer at security firm FireEye, which helped with the investigation into Rustock…

He said that the character of the code inside the Rustock malware and the way the giant network was run suggested that it was operated by a small team…

Rustock evaded capture for years because of the clever way it was controlled, he said. Victims were snared when they visited websites seeded with booby-trapped adverts and links.

Once PCs were compromised, updates were regularly pushed out to them using custom written encryption. Those downloads contained the spam engine that despatched billions of ads for fake pharmaceuticals…

“When you are a programmer and you realise that you have the full force of the Microsoft legal department pointed directly at you, then you might say to yourself its time to try something else,” he said.

Any bets on whatever they do for grins, giggles and geedus, next – is legal? Once you get hooked on higher returns from crime it’s difficult to accept less.

Microsoft helps the Feds take down Rustock spambot network

Rustock, purveyor of more e-mail spam than any other network in the world, was felled last week by Microsoft and federal law enforcement agents.

A lawsuit by Microsoft that was unsealed at the company’s request late today triggered several coordinated raids last Wednesday that took down Rustock, a botnet that infected millions of computers with malicious code in order to turn them into a massive spam-sending network.

This botnet is estimated to have approximately a million infected computers operating under its control and has been known to be capable of sending billions of spam mails every day,” Richard Boscovich, senior attorney in the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, wrote in a blog post today.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that it was Microsoft’s digital crimes unit, working in concert with U.S. marshals, that raided seven hosting facilities across the country and seized the command-and-control machines that ran the network. Those are the servers that send instructions to the fleet of infected computers to dish out spam messages hawking such items as phony lottery scams and fake and potentially dangerous prescription drugs.The takedown was known internally as Operation b107.

Shutting down Rustock could put a huge dent in spam worldwide. Tech security giant Symantec estimated last year that Rustock was responsible for 39 percent of the world’s spam. Global spam levels dropped 12 percent after Dutch authorities took down a Trojan horse named Bredolab last November.

Rock on, Microsoft. Cleaning up the ethically-diseased flavor of hacker is always worthwhile.

No doubt there will be a new rationale for script kiddies – or the occasional “honest” crook – who will rejoin the scumsuckers of spam. Their relationship to ordinary folks who simply wish to avail themselves of modern communications will continue to be parasitic.