Spam has been a problem since the earliest days of the Internet, but most users just think of spam as a collective group of hackers who either work in sync or independently -- no one thinks of the specific spammers themselves. In his newest book, “Spam Nation,” security expert Brian Krebs goes into the world of “pharma spam,” spammers that focus on spamming email accounts with offers for pharmaceutical products, ranging from “anti-depression meds to fertility meds to powerful, controlled painkillers -- and, of course, erectile dysfunction medication.”
Krebs is a world-renowned security expert -- he broke the news about the Target data breach and the cyberattackers behind it -- and gained some valuable insight behind the ugly battle between spammers.
Boing Boing has a great summary of the book. While Krebs regularly thwarts cyberattackers, spammers actually turn to Krebs to brag about their accomplishments...or complain about their competitors. The “spam wars” took a turn when spammers started attacking each other and sending their competitors' information to the authorities... and Krebs. The information provided was the backbone of the source material Krebs used in the book.
Pharma spammers don’t expect big returns, due to the high costs if an order gets processed. Pharmaceutical costs in the US are extremely high, and people are always looking for cheaper medication. However, these meds are highly unstable -- shady suppliers in India and China bid in real time for the orders, and many times the medications are laced with dangerous substances, like uranium (seriously!).
Spammers are ecommerce merchants too!
Interestingly, spammers and merchants have something in common -- spammers are also terrified of chargebacks. The payment process for these spammers is extremely risky and fragile -- the few payment processors that will actually work with them are already in hot water. Chargebacks from unhappy customers that realized they were duped means that both the payment processors and the spammers lose money, and if a spammer gets too many chargebacks, its easy to assume they’ll find themselves without a payment processor.
While spammers certainly deserve the hassle of dealing with chargebacks, merchants who are just trying to sustain and grow their businesses certainly don’t. Banks and payment processors are treating merchants and spammers the same, essentially -- no matter what your intent, if a customer is unhappy, then the “seller” loses. Treating merchants the same as the malintentioned is incredibly unfair and is one of many reasons why chargebacks is such a big problem for merchants, no matter what they sell.
You can read the full summary on Boing Boing.