- Cash tunes
- The modalities of it all
The order came in a press release from the Mighty Telecom Mobile Empire:
"Mobile phone users are expected to help fill the air with Kiwi sounds during New Zealand Music Month of May with their Ringtones and Caller Tunes."
Oh no... my phone bills are high enough as they are! Now I'm expected to fork out between $1.95 and $4.95 per ring tone and $3.50 for a caller tune as well. Telecom's mobile general manager, Kevin Kenrick, says an upsurge of downloads is expected in May as people show their support for local music. The shuffling-shifting GM didn't say anything in the release about how exorbitantly expensive his short tinny tunes and ring tones are, however. (I wonder how much of the charge goes to the artists.)
Telecom's ring-tones and caller tunes make Apple's iTunes look like bargains at A$1.80-something each. Well, they would be if Kiwis had access to them. Who knows if we ever will? Apple's distributor here certainly doesn't. Seems the Aussies can't get their iTunes fix either despite the widely-expected launch yesterday -- there's still no Australian store showing up in iTunes and it doesn't seem to be accessible via a web browser either.
The modalities of it all
The vast majority of spam I receive currently comprises variants of Ye Olde Advance Fee Fraud Scam committed by West African gangsters, mainly from Nigeria. They play on reverse racism, targeting corrupt and stupid people in rich countries who think they're dealing with equally corrupt but even more stupid Africans.
However, the Africans are anything but stupid. Instead, they're showing a deep understanding of human weaknesses and are able to masterfully exploit the internet to reach as many greedies as possible. At first, the 419ers used various freemail services but the operators of those have mostly got wise and firewalled off West African IP space. Now the 419ers employ dialup accounts in Europe and also scan the internet for vulnerable webmail sites -- PHP-Nuke mailers seem to be the favourite, so it's worth adding a Spam Assassin rule that bumps up the score for the "X-Mailer: RLSP Mailer" header. I just wonder when the 419ers will start working with virus writers.
Scamming techniques are also becoming more refined. Chinese, Australian and European names are now soliciting fees but tracing the origin of the messages shows that they come from Nigeria. You’re getting "job offers" and are invited to "import and export opportunities", "government contracts" and more. The New York Times recently reported on Nigerians "paying" with well-made but bogus postal orders for various online transactions. In some cases, the payees knew that the postal orders were fake but cashed them nevertheless, which is hardly surprising.
Providing our Nigerian friends with the ability to reach the dirty unwashed internet masses are various satellite providers. In the past, I used to recommend that people trace the origin of spam and complain to providers about it -- not anymore, however, because in most cases the provider in question knows full well what's going on and will either ignore your complaint or forward it to the spammer in full, so there's a considerable risk of retribution.
Ignoring my own advice there I nevertheless complained about one 419er recently. To my surprise, the satellite provider's "Network Engineer Specialist" -- let’s call him Diego -- responded to the complaint. But... arrgh, Diego forwarded the entire complaint with my name and email address in it to the Nigerian customer. Thanks.
In his response, Diego wrote: "The Computer with IP address <snip> has been continually generating 419 SPAM traffic on the internet. This activity is illegal and since February 21 of this year this offender has generated over 330 complaints. This activity and has caused several SPAM blocking Organizations to add this network to their databases. [sic]"
Uhm, Diego... spamming continually since February 21? 330 spam complaints since then? Isn't it high time to stop taking the Nigerians’ money and cut the connection instead, especially if the activity as you say is illegal?
Diego's indiscretion was bad enough but then one of the Nigerian network operators cc'ed on his response took it upon himself to respond to the 419er's email address in the original spam. Said operator excoriated the spammer for being a 419er and added a threat: "We will catch up with you sooner than you thought unless you repent from your foolishness and not tricks [sic]."
The operator went on to issue an "official warning" that the "EFCC and Interpol are after you all..." and that they would soon be "on your doorstep" as "we know where you are operating from". Sure you do, the guy's using one of your computers. Seems the best thing the 419er can do now is to give his life to Jesus Christ as it's the only way the spammer can be safe and secure, according to the network operator who clearly is of a biblical bent.
Somehow I don't think religion will help put an end to the lucrative 419 business. Permanently blocking every single network with an end-point in Nigeria would provide at least temporary relief however.