A Brief History of Spam – The Internet’s Most Wanted

wantedWelcome back to our series on everyone’s favourite inbox contents, spam. In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at a veritable rogues’ gallery; a collection of charlatans, cheats, and knaves; a book of blackguards, scumbags, and scallywags; the list of the Internet’s Most Wanted. These are the bottom ten worst of the worst, the most offensive, the lowest of the low. These are the individuals most responsible for the majority of spam hitting your inboxes every day. They are as bad as a banana with a greasy black peep, and are as charming as an eel. They are, in a word, spammers. Most of them are individuals whose names and locations are known, but that doesn’t mean the law can do much if anything about them. For all the time and effort it takes for us all to deal with spam, it most countries it is not illegal, and in those where it is, these individuals steer clear.

The Spamhaus Project is probably well known to many of you who maintain email systems. They are an international non-profit that tracks spam sources. They work with law enforcement to help bring spam operations to a close where they can, and provide valuable anti-spam resources to email admins, including DNS blacklists and ROKSO, the Register of Known Spam Operations.

Spamhaus recently published a Top 10 Worst Spammers list at http://www.spamhaus.org/statistics/spammers/ which details the world’s worst spammers, whether as individuals or organized gangs. If you want to know who to blame for all the wasted time, space, and CPU cycles burned, you need look no further than this list. Here’s a quick run-down on what you can expect to see over at Spamhaus’ list.

  • Of the ten worst spammers, six are individuals listed by name, while four are organizations.
  • One, based in the US, even has a picture. Apparently his company exists solely to spam.
  • At least two are also tied to illegal pornography.
  • Six use compromised machines to send out spam.
  • One owns their own domain registrar, enabling them to cheaply register as many domains as they want.
  • At least five of the ten specialize in pharmaceutical based spam.
  • Two also put out financial service based spam. One went so far as to create a fake bank!
  • All are in what most would consider first world countries, including Hong Kong, the Ukraine, the United States, the Russian Federation, Canada, and Australia. If you remember our article on where spam comes from, you might recall that most comes from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, and China. It looks like the worst spammers off-shore their operations.

Spamhaus does much more than simply track the source of spam. The Spamhaus Block List (SBL) is one of the most effective systems you can use with your enterprise email systems to block spam sources before you even have to accept a message or run it through filters. If you maintain an enterprise email system, you should check out http://www.spamhaus.org/faq/section/Spamhaus%20SBL to see how you can use the SBL to help further reduce the amount of spam you have to filter, and ultimately, what gets to your users’ inboxes.

Written by Casper Manes

I currently work as a Senior Messaging Consultant for one of the premier consulting firms in the world, I cut my teeth on Exchange 5.0, and have worked with every version of Microsoft’s awesome email package since then, as well as MHS, Sendmail, and MailEnable systems. I've written dozens of articles on behalf of my past employers, their partners, and others, and I finally decided to embrace blogging and social media, so please follow me on Twitter @caspermanes if you enjoy my posts.


  1. Cass · April 13, 2013

    Spam is obviously a business that is run from advanced countries – here are the banks, airlines, famous stores and brands to misrepresent. Similarly to other businesses, costs are cut by hiring cheap labor overseas but the masterminds are where the markets are.

  2. Paul · April 23, 2013

    The 10 individuals/organizations in this list should be considered dangerous in every sense of the word! Many people do not realize that spamming is not only an invasion of one’s privacy; it can also alter and destroy a person’s life! When you become a victim of spam, everything that you hold precious is compromised. Some people lose everything they have because of spammers. So these spammers should be taken seriously! Every country or place in the world should have clear cut laws with regard to spamming and spammers. And these laws should be implemented religiously. Is this possible at all?

  3. Clarence · April 26, 2013

    This list is quite interesting. I really could not pinpoint the legitimacy of the list. You know how surveys and studies work. They are normally based on limited related literature. Regardless, I am wondering what the government is doing or if Spamhaus has worked closely with the right federal agencies. A spammer with a picture? What can be more obvious than that?

  4. Diane · April 30, 2013

    With all these kinds of details, how come we can’t still curb spamming? What is definitely wrong with the system? Is it because the government thinks that are far more pressing problems than spamming? Perhaps that’s what it is, but they should realize that in the long term, if this remains uncontrolled, spam will become more sinister and hurt the industries that support the economy.

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