University of California, San Diego (UCSD) researchers recently completed a study aimed at finding a choke point that could reduce the flow of spam emails. The researchers tried to receive as much spam as possible for three months and then they bought items from the Web sites advertised in the messages.
The researchers, led by UCSD professor Stefan Savage, found that 95 percent of credit card transactions for spam-advertised drugs and herbal remedies were handled by three main financial companies, one of which was in Azerbaijan, one in Denmark, and one in the West Indies. Savage says the study indicates that "you'd cut off the money that supports the entire spam enterprise" if those companies stopped authorizing online credit card payments to the Web sites.
The researchers found that spam systems rely on just a few banks and even fewer credit card processors, which is a glaring weakness that regulators and law enforcement agencies can exploit. "The defenders can, in principle, identify which banks the scammers are using far faster than they can get new banks, and for basically zero cost," Savage says.
From The New York Times
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