What did you want to be when you grew up? A ballerina? An astronaut? Rocket scientist? A spammer?
Apparently, 23-year-old Russian rogue, Oleg Nikolaenko, wanted to be the latter. In a confrontation that has now made international headlines, Nikolaenko was arrested for violating the 2003 CAN SPAM act. CAN SPAM is an acronym for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited P ornography And Marketing. This is the law created in 2003 that protects consumers from an onslaught of unsolicited email. According to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission),
“The CAN-SPAM Act defines commercial messages as those for which the primary purpose is to advertise or promote a commercial product or service.”
Although his sensational arrest at the world renown Bellagio hotel is just now a popular news story, he was actually apprehended weeks ago. The FBI had been tracking the young man for quite some time and was finally able to arrest him when he recently visited the US. Why was his arrest such a big deal? Because Nikolaenko is no ordinary cyber threat. The FBI claims that he is the malevolent force behind Mega-D – one of the worst botnets in history.
In short, a botnet is a compilation of web robots. Although you may envision a group of I Robot machines ala Ira Levin (or Will Smith), it’s not quite that dramatic. Rather than life size machines, web robots or bots, are actually just applications. They are called bots because everything they do is automated and repetitive. Although they can be used for beneficial applications, often they are used for malicious things – like spamming people. So imagine an enormous group of applications whose sole purpose is to send thousands of emails per minute... that’s per bot. The amount of spam generated by the botnet would be devastating to the world wide web. Mega-D certainly was.
For years, Mega-D was responsible for approximately 30% of all spam worldwide. After being dismantled last year by some dedicated cyber crime experts, it was restored and revamped by its owners, well on its way to spamming the world again. However, the FTC and other authorities knew some of the owners of the destructive botnet, and Oleg Nikolaenko was one in their sights. When he stepped onto US soil last month to attend a car show, he was taken into custody, where he sits in a Wisconsin jail... until further notice.
Incidentally, rooms at the Bellagio start at approximately $230 per night. Apparently, spamming pays well.