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:
Received: from bullets.cybercon.com (bullets.cybercon.com [18.104.22.168]) by mail.comp-sol.com (EMWAC SMTPRS 0.83) with SMTP id ; 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: email@example.com
This is all fake, inserted by the spammer's bulk mail software. It can be safely ignored.
Received: from 22.214.171.124 (hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com [126.96.36.199]) 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 "188.8.131.52" 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:
[184.108.40.206] Translated Name: bullets.cybercon.com IP Address: 220.127.116.11 [hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com] Translated Name: hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com IP Address: 18.104.22.168
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. "[22.214.171.124]"
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, for starters.
Received: from usr15-dialup53.mx1.Willowsprings.mci.net [126.96.36.199] by Willowsprings.mci.net (8.8.5/8.6.5) with SMTP id GAA02664 for ; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:59:04 -0600 (EST) Date: Wed, 10 Sep 97 20:59:04 EST To: email@example.com Subject: Here's the info you requested Message-ID: <19970908182053.load2391.in@don> Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org X-UIDL: 12345678987456123012345698745612 Comments: Authenticated sender is
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.
Everybody loves Mr. Chicken!
Ah, here's where it gets amusing! So, let's just enjoy this spam for a moment, shall we?
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?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
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 email@example.com and also to firstname.lastname@example.org. This won't do anything, but what the heck.Cyber Promotions (ANSWERME4-DOM) 8001 Castor Avenue, Suite #127 Philadelphia, PA 19152 USA
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
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"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;
So, we know they get their service from mci.net. Therefore, a complaint also goes to email@example.com 188.8.131.52 (184.108.40.206) 2 alpha-nomad.alpha.net (220.127.116.11) 3 mke-1.alpha.net (18.104.22.168) 4 chicago2-cr2.bbnplanet.net (22.214.171.124) 5 chicago1-br1.bbnplanet.net (126.96.36.199) 6 core5-hssi5-0.WillowSprings.mci.net (188.8.131.52) 7 core1.NorthRoyalton.mci.net (184.108.40.206) 8 core-hssi-2.Chicago.mci.net (220.127.116.11) 9 border4-fddi-0.Chicago.mci.net (18.104.22.168) 10 startnet-llc.Chicago.mci.net (22.214.171.124) 11 router.cybercon.com (126.96.36.199) 12 bullets.cybercon.com (188.8.131.52)
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"
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:whois 184.108.40.206 [rs.internic.net] STARNET, L.L.C. (NETBLK-STARNET-CBLK) P.O. Box 6286 St. Louis, MO 63006-6286 Netname: STARNET-CBLK Netblock: 220.127.116.11 - 18.104.22.168 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 22.214.171.124 NEWS.STARNET.NET 126.96.36.199 NS1.DRA.NET 188.8.131.52 Record last updated on 30-Aug-96.
For "cybercon.com," we find only this:
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?*************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******************
[nothing of consequence found]
What about doing a search for "mrchicken?"
Here is what we find:
****************QUOTE********************** Subject: Everyone loves Mr Chicken From: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: 1997/09/08 Message-Id: <email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org (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 email@example.com. So, here is our complaint e-mail:
[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: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: SPAM REPORT ->Re: Here's the info you requested CC: email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org 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 [184.108.40.206]) by mail.comp-sol.com (EMWAC SMTPRS 0.83) with SMTP id ; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:00:52 -0500 From: email@example.com Received: from 220.127.116.11 (hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com [18.104.22.168]) 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 [22.214.171.124] by Willowsprings.mci.net (8.8.5/8.6.5) with SMTP id GAA02664 for ; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:59:04 -0600 (EST) Date: Wed, 10 Sep 97 20:59:04 EST To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Here's the info you requested Message-ID: <19970908182053.load2391.in@don> Reply-To: email@example.com X-UIDL: 12345678987456123012345698745612 Comments: Authenticated sender is 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.comEverybody loves Mr. Chicken!
OK, folks, that's it for tonight. Any questions? If not, class is dismissed.
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 * * * ***************************************************************