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South Korea Arrests Spammers
The South Korean government has placed under arrest two computer programmers accused of being responsible for sending 1.6 billion spam messages.
The messages were sent during the last quarter of 2006.
The government has been elusive as to the exact nature of the messages, but it would seem they were part of a phishing scam. The intent was not to sell goods, but rather trick the recipient into divulging certain personal data. While many phishing operations are international in nature - this one was mostly targeted back at fellow South Koreans.
The scammers were paid a little over $100,000 for the data they had collected by another organization.
Like most super-spammers - they created a network using thousands of unwilling victim computers known as zombies. These zombie systems are usually created by the attacker using an "exploit" to take control of them remotely.
Collectively, these zombie systems are known as a botnet. Botnets often grow organically - with each zombie automatically infecting new victims in addition to sending unwanted messages. Botnets tend to span multiple networks, making some traditional methods to block spammers, such as blacklists, less effective.
While their exact ranking varies, South Korea is often identified as being responsible for a disproportionately large part of all spam sent on the internet.
South Korea has an impressive base of highly skilled information professionals, and a robust internet infrastructure. As a result, they have the potential for strong economic growth in their information sector. Unfortunately, most people in the United States and other western countries have little online interaction with South Korea besides receiving spam.
As a result, many email server operators simply elect to block all email originating from Korea. China and Russia are two other countries in similar situations. Increasingly, some email servers are using geographic IP information as a major part of their spam detection system.
Being regarded as a "spammy" country poses a serious problem for any nation looking to provide commerce and other online services internationally. Spam itself brings in some money, but it may push away other more lucrative business. This may be what provides the motive for crackdowns like this one.