Santa Claus, the jolly old elf made famous for his giving nature and a serious jones for cookies and milk, is packing his sleigh at this very moment. Poised to defy the laws of physics and visit a few billion homes in the next twenty-four hours while we snuggle up in front of the fire with a large mug of hot chocolate, we must all fight the urge to dial 911 when we hear the pitter patter of reindeer hooves on the roof. And while the fat man in the red suit has most likely already signed-off on his naughty or nice list, there’s one nasty little child holed up somewhere in Russia who needs to get a large lump of coal in his stocking this year. Or if not a lump of coal, then a shiny new pair of law enforcement-grade handcuffs.
What is it about this time of the year that brings out the worst in people? Religious beliefs aside, there’s something about this time of the year that should make all people take a deep breath, send a little good will out to fellow humans, and, well…just smile, dammit. Unfortunately, for spammers, scammers, skimmers and scummers (last attempt this year at coining a new word), it appears that there’s no room for taking time off over the holidays and treat others with the dignity and respect that most people recognize as a necessary element of a living, breathing society.
Case in point: The Register reported earlier this month that three anti-scam sites were inundated with a massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack over several days, effectively rendering the sites useless. According to The Register, “The sites – 419eater.com, scamwarners.com and aa419.org (Artists Against 419) – were swamped with junk traffic for several days. During the attack the sites’ administrators turned to blogs, Facebook and other alternative channels to distribute news of newly detected fake payment sites and other urgent anti-fraud information.” According to an anonymous Register reader, “”These websites and their users provide excellent exposure for online fraud activities and have been responsible for allowing thousands of prospective victims to detect a scam in play, and get out before losses are incurred They also work actively to kill fake bank sites, fake freight forwarding sites and other criminal resources.””
The Register reported that two of the three sites were back in working order in a few days, but the story takes a nefarious turn from here. Early speculation was that a Russian scam artist (scum artist? Okay, last attempt at coining a new term. This year.) was responsible for the attacks, and not long afterward, someone over at ScamWarners contacted The Register and divulged that the attack, “was perpetrated by a scammer who became angry at a topic posted on 419Eater, which exposed his scam. 419Eater.com was first attacked and ScamWarners began to publicise it via Twitter and Facebook. The next day [Thursday], ScamWarners was also attacked. The scammer then sent an email to me, threatening both ScamWarners and 419Eater. We were told to cease exposing their information and reporting their Amazon sites or we would both be eradicated from cyberspace.”
If that last sentence didn’t outrage you at least a little bit, go back and read it again. Is it necessarily foolish and naïve to believe that even scammers – scumbags who invest a significant amount of time into developing malware designed to bilk little old ladies living on fixed incomes out of their precious savings – might take a little time off during Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Ashura, or whatever religious observance you prefer to…uhm…observe? Absolutely it is. One could assume that’s what bulbous men in red tights with fist-sized lumps of coal are for. But acceptance isn’t enough. This is a time of the year “when want is keenly felt, and abundance rejoices,” as Dickens pointed out; yet the inhumanity of the deeds of a few are enough to make this writer wonder how we continue to survive the ravages of human nature – in other words, ourselves.
It’s been a year fraught with cyber crime and cyber busts, with malicious attacks and new forms of spam; with new scams and chilling suggestions of things to come. For this week, anyway, most of us will rejoice at the presence of family and friends, and sadly, many will go hungry. Unfortunately, the latter will most likely not be the scammers. Here’s hoping that in 2012, we will have a chance to see more of these blights on our little blue-green orb find the other side of steel bars.
Next week: tune in for our top 10 list of popular torture methods for 2012, designed specifically for the aforementioned scumbags.