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Spamhaus thinks governments should cut off funds to spammers

By Ken Simpson | 2 minute read

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

In a November 1st post entitled, “Who’s Really Paying Cybercrimals?” influential blocklist provider Spamhaus suggests that it’s perhaps time that governments started using their financial leverage to choke off funding to spammers, in the same way that they have choked off funding to groups like Wikileaks. This is an interesting idea, because recent research has suggested that the vast majority of spam revenue flows through a relatively small set of payment processors (see Show Me the Money: Characterizing Spam-advertised Revenue [PDF]). If governments were to shut down just a small number of payment processors, spammers would find their business suddenly a great deal less profitable.

What happens after these sources of funds are cut off is anyone’s guess; however, I wouldn’t rule out a move toward pseudonymous payment systems like Bitcoin, or the use of other creative techniques to get around the issue of government control. Wikileaks was particular vulnerable to having its funds choked off because it was easy for Visa and Mastercard to identify transactions headed their way. It’s perhaps a little more difficult to recognize spam-related transactions, because the recipient’s merchant account can switch frequently from one entity to another, and because the patterns of transactions look a great deal like legitimate e-commerce.

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