Spam-tracking 101 (for newbies)

From: bmattocks@comp-sol.com (Bill Mattocks)
Newsgroups:news.admin.net-abuse.email
Subject: LESSON: Spam-tracking 101 (for newbies)
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 1997 02:54:19 GMT
Organization: Computer Solutions of Kenosha

Are you sitting comfortably? Good, then I'll begin.

Here is a spam I just received. It is bad, because it is spam. It is bad, because it attempts to masquerade as being information I requested to avoid detection as spam. It is bad because it has mangled headers to attempt to deflect complaints away from the true perpetrators. It is also quite funny. Here it is, dissected for the newer anti-spammers to watch and learn from:

First line:

Received: from bullets.cybercon.com (bullets.cybercon.com [199.217.156.7]) by mail.comp-sol.com (EMWAC SMTPRS 0.83) with SMTP id <B0000036788@mail.comp-sol.com>; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:00:52 -0500

This is my mail server getting the spam from a mail server known as bullets.cybercon.com. Please note that the ISP listed here may well have been innocently hijacked by the spammer, we really don't know yet.

Wed, 10 Sep 1997 21:02:53 -0500 Received: from From: 84903020@ix.netcom.com

This is all fake, inserted by the spammer's bulk mail software. It can be safely ignored.

Received: from 199.217.156.7 (hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com [199.174.250.155]) by bullets.cybercon.com (8.8.5/8.8.5) with SMTP id UAA03117; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:27:30 -0500

This line purports to show where bullets.cybercon.com actually GOT the mail from that it relayed to me. Please note that "199.217.156.7" does NOT belong to "hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com." How do we know this? Simple, we use a tool called nslookup (available for many platforms). Here is what we see:

[199.217.156.7]
Translated Name: bullets.cybercon.com
IP Address: 199.217.156.7

[hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com]
Translated Name: hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com
IP Address: 199.174.250.155

What does this all mean? It means that the first part of the line is bogus, but the second part is correct. We know that because most mail server software will report accurate information about where it got the mail from in most cases (it has to be misconfigured or older brain-dead software to be completely silent about where it got the mail from). It has been my observation that you can trust the IP address found within the square brackets, i.e. "[199.174.250.155]"

So, we have a reasonable expectation that the spammer used a dialup account on Compuserve to send this spam. We still do not know if the ISP it was sent through is innocent or guilty, though. We will complain to Compuserve at abuse@compuserve.com, for starters.

Received: from usr15-dialup53.mx1.Willowsprings.mci.net [166.55.38.181] by Willowsprings.mci.net (8.8.5/8.6.5) with SMTP id GAA02664 for <bullwinkle@rocky.com>; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:59:04 -0600 (EST) Date: Wed, 10 Sep 97 20:59:04 EST To: bullwinkle@rocky.com Subject: Here's the info you requested Message-ID: <19970908182053.load2391.in@don> Reply-To: mrchicken@answerme.com X-UIDL: 12345678987456123012345698745612 Comments: Authenticated sender is <don@Willowsprings.mci.net>

The above is all trash. You can ignore any headers after the correct ones are found. That is because mailers put the headers onto the top of the message when they pass it along, not somewhere inside the message. Thus, the very top message was from MY mailer, receiving the mail. The one right under that was from the ISP's mailer, sending it to me and reporting where it got it from. The rest is junk, designed to confuse us.

Don't be fooled by "Authenticated sender" messages. They are easily faked, and mean nothing. They don't "authenticate" anything.

<HTML><PRE><BODY BGCOLOR="#000000"><FONT COLOR="#00FFFF" SIZE=3> Everybody loves Mr. Chicken!

Ah, here's where it gets amusing! So, let's just enjoy this spam for a moment, shall we?

Kids are going wild over Mr. Chicken.  Parents laugh hysterically at the sight of him.
Why spend $50 on toys that your kids forget about the next day when for pennies
they can have a Mr Chicken that they'll enjoy for months?
For full details, Email MrChicken@answerme.com
Now, if we follow Rush Limbaugh's advice and "follow the money," it would appear that the perpetrator of this spam has a mailbox at answerme.com, and his handle is "MrChicken." What do we know about answerme.com?
Cyber Promotions (ANSWERME4-DOM)
   8001 Castor Avenue, Suite #127
   Philadelphia, PA 19152
   USA
Well, it happens that Cyberpromo is the owner of this particular domain. That kind of ends that trail for us, because Cyberpromo is a spamhaus, and their upstream provider, AGIS, is well aware of it and supports it. AGIS is a "backbone" on the Internet, so there is no one above them to complain to. Still, since Cyberpromo CLAIMS to be against illegal relaying, we can send a copy of the complaint to relayabuse@cyberpromo.com and also to abuse@agis.net. This won't do anything, but what the heck.
</FONT><FONT COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3>
So, that ends the spam. Now, what about the original ISP who sent the spam to me? Innocent party or spamhaus? Well, let's take a look at their web page: http://www.cybercon.com/aup.html
  Cybercon Acceptable User Policy

  It is contrary to Cybercon policy for any user to effect or
  participate in any of the following activities through a Cybercon
  service:

  [snip]

  3.To send unsolicited mass emailings to more than twenty-five (25)
  email users, if such unsolicited emailings provoke
       complaints from the recipients;

     4.To engage in any of the foregoing activities using the service of
  another provider, but channeling such activities through a
       Cybercon account or remailer, or using a Cybercon account as a
  maildrop for responses;
Now, it would appear from looking at their homepage (http://www.cybercon.com) and also by "reading between the lines" of their AUP, that Cybercon is a spamhaus, however thinly disguised. That does NOT mean that they authorized this spam, or that they were NOT hijacked. But the suspicion is definately there. In any case, they get a copy of the complaint as well. If they were hijacked, they may wish to investigate further and perhaps initiate legal action. If they were not, they may remain silent on the matter. In any case, they also have an upstream provider, which can be determined by doing a traceroute on "bullets.cybercon.com"
 1  156.46.104.254 (156.46.104.254)
 2  alpha-nomad.alpha.net (206.190.31.149)
 3  mke-1.alpha.net (156.46.1.1)
 4  chicago2-cr2.bbnplanet.net (204.167.132.9)
 5  chicago1-br1.bbnplanet.net (199.92.131.11)
 6  core5-hssi5-0.WillowSprings.mci.net (206.157.77.201)
 7  core1.NorthRoyalton.mci.net (204.70.4.205)
 8  core-hssi-2.Chicago.mci.net (204.70.1.93)
 9  border4-fddi-0.Chicago.mci.net (204.70.3.83)
10  startnet-llc.Chicago.mci.net (204.70.27.6)
11  router.cybercon.com (199.217.252.58)
12  bullets.cybercon.com (199.217.156.7)
So, we know they get their service from mci.net. Therefore, a complaint also goes to abuse@mci.net.

What else do we know about the elusive Cybercon? Let's check their IP range, to see who might own it. We can use "whois"

 whois 199.217.156.0
[rs.internic.net]
STARNET, L.L.C. (NETBLK-STARNET-CBLK)
   P.O. Box 6286
   St. Louis, MO 63006-6286

   Netname: STARNET-CBLK
   Netblock: 199.217.128.0 - 199.217.255.0
   Maintainer: STLL

   Coordinator:
      Myers, Chris B. [President]  (CBM10)  chris@STARNET.NET
      (314) 227-3136 (FAX) (314) 716-6163

   Domain System inverse mapping provided by:

   ADMIN.STARNET.NET            199.217.253.10
   NEWS.STARNET.NET             199.217.253.11
   NS1.DRA.NET                  192.65.218.14

   Record last updated on 30-Aug-96.
So, it appears that Starnet owns their Class "C" license. Now, let's jump into DejaNews (the land of "all my sins remembered") and see what we can find out:

For "cybercon.com," we find only this:

*************QUOTE*******************
2 Matches for search:  cybercon.com

1. 97/05/18 016 [email] Information /uu. news.admin.net-abus LINDSEY JEAN NICE
2. 97/03/01 016 [email]-BETTER THAN AOL  news.admin.net-abus LINDSEY JEAN NICE
***********ENDQUOTE******************
Upon reading the messages in question, it appears that they once complained that they had been mischaracterized as "cybercoM.com" and not "cybercon.com" and wanted a retraction printed. OK, no spam reports. How about their class C ticket holder?

[nothing of consequence found]

What about doing a search for "mrchicken?"

Here is what we find:

****************QUOTE**********************

Subject:      Everyone loves Mr Chicken
From:         igynews@sprynet.com
Date:         1997/09/08
Message-Id:   <5uv7e4$qiv$1@juliana.sprynet.com>
Organization: Sprynet News Service
Newsgroups:   alt.activism.children
[Fewer Headers]

EVERYONE LOVES MR. CHICKEN!

Are you tired of paying hundreds of dollars for toys your kids break
or get bored of the next day?  How would you like a toy that can
provide countless hours of fun for literally pennies?  MR. CHICKEN is
the answer.  For full details, email MRCHICKEN@answerme.com

***************ENDQUOTE*********************

So, it appears that MrChicken has posted an identical message a few days ago in UseNet. Just one, so not spam, although since it just happened, the others may not have been picked up by DejaNews yet. Still, we see that sprynet.net was used, not cybercon.com. It begins to look as though cybercon.com is NOT guilty, but either was hijacked or has a bad actor on their hands. So, we still complain to Cybercon, but scratch abuse@mci.net (their upstream provider) from the list.

Now, it appears that we have done "due diligence" on our search to find the source of the spam. We believe that the guilty party is only mrchicken@answerme.com. So, here is our complaint e-mail:

To: mrchicken@answerme.com 

[NOTE - this will get me a response from their autoresponder, which may give me more information on the identity of "Mr. Chicken." However, it may also subject me to more spam. I am willing to risk it, for the sake of the exercise. You probably do NOT want to do this.]

From: bmattocks@comp-sol.com

Subject: SPAM REPORT ->Re: Here's  the info you requested

CC: staff@cybercon.com,support@cybercon.com, abuse@agis.net,relayabuse@cyberpromo.com


NOTE TO CYBERCON.COM:  It would appear that your SMTP server was
either hijacked, or you have a "bad actor" on your hands.  Could you
please investigate and take action on this?

NOTE TO CYBERPROMO:  It would appear that a client of yours
(MrChicked@answerme.com) is failing to use your relay service, and may
have hijacked the SMTP server belonging to cybercon.com.  Please
investigate and take action!

NOTE TO AGIS.NET:  This spam was sent via what may well have been an
illegally hijacked SMTP server.  Please investigate and take action.

Thanks,

Bill Mattocks
Computer Solutions of Kenosha
2031 22nd Avenue
Kenosha, WI  53140
(414) 551-8088
http://www.comp-sol.com

Received: from bullets.cybercon.com (bullets.cybercon.com [199.217.156.7]) by mail.comp-sol.com (EMWAC SMTPRS 0.83) with SMTP id <B0000036788@mail.comp-sol.com>; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:00:52 -0500 From: 84903020@ix.netcom.com Received: from 199.217.156.7 (hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com [199.174.250.155]) by bullets.cybercon.com (8.8.5/8.8.5) with SMTP id UAA03117; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:27:30 -0500 Received: from usr15-dialup53.mx1.Willowsprings.mci.net [166.55.38.181] by Willowsprings.mci.net (8.8.5/8.6.5) with SMTP id GAA02664 for <bullwinkle@rocky.com>; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:59:04 -0600 (EST) Date: Wed, 10 Sep 97 20:59:04 EST To: bullwinkle@rocky.com Subject: Here's the info you requested Message-ID: <19970908182053.load2391.in@don> Reply-To: mrchicken@answerme.com X-UIDL: 12345678987456123012345698745612 Comments: Authenticated sender is <don@Willowsprings.mci.net> <xmp> <HTML><PRE><BODY BGCOLOR="#000000"><FONT COLOR="#00FFFF" SIZE=3> Everybody loves Mr. Chicken! Kids are going wild over Mr. Chicken. Parents laugh hysterically at the sight of him. Why spend $50 on toys that your kids forget about the next day when for pennies they can have a Mr Chicken that they'll enjoy for months? For full details, Email MrChicken@answerme.com

OK, folks, that's it for tonight. Any questions? If not, class is dismissed.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks, CIIU

***************************************************************
*                                                             *
*  "My sense of personal integrity is none of your concern."  *
*                        -thus spake Walt "Pickle Jar" Rines  *
*                                                             *
* "I'm going to pound your balls flat with a wooden mallet."  *
*                        -thus respondeth Bill Mattocks       *
*                                                             *
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