I was reading a bit about spam email and the choke points that come with international banking (PDF), and came across this little paragraph:
On October 27th, the Grum botnet delivered an email titled VIAGRA Official Site. The body of the message includes an image of male enhancement pharmaceutical tablets and their associated prices (shown). The image provides a URL tag and thus when clicked directs the user’s browser to resolve the associated domain name, medicshopnerx.ru. This domain was registered by REGRU-REG-RIPN (a.k.a. reg.ru) on October 18th — it is still active as of this writing. The machine providing name service resides in China, while hosting resolves to a machine in Brazil. The user’s browser initiates an HTTP request to the machine, and receives content that renders the storefront for “Pharmacy Express,” a brand associated with the Mailien pharmaceutical affiliate program based in Russia.
After selecting an item to purchase and clicking on “Checkout”, the storefront redirects the user to a payment portal served from payquickonline.com (this time serving content via an IP address in Turkey), which accepts the user’s shipping, email contact, and payment information, and provides an order confirmation number. Subsequent email confirms the order, provides an EMS tracking number, and includes a contact email for customer questions. The bank that issued the user’s credit card transfers money to the acquiring bank, in this case the Azerigazbank Joint-Stock Investment Bank in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Ten days later the product arrives, blister-packaged, in a cushioned white envelope with postal markings indicating a supplier named PPW based in Chennai, India as its originator.
So six counries are involved in a single spam email transaction. And they said the world would never learn to get along!
What was interesting about this paper is that it makes it so transparent that the credit card companies and the banks are complicit in maintaining the problem. There are scores of millions of possible bogus URLS, but there are only two or three major credit companies in the world, and only a limited number of banks that will process spam email revenue. The world of spam pharmaceutical companies, fake knockoffs, and bogus herbal medicines could be brought to its knees in a week if the credit card companies actually took action.