Canadian Pharmacy spam disappears to relief of legit firm

Legitimate businesses often confused with spammers are getting some relief as spam volumes dipped by about 50 billion messages per day during the last half of December, according to a new report.

Spam volumes dropped from 80.2 billion emails to just 33.5 billion emails per day in the last two weeks of 2010, according to a report from MessageLabs, now owned by Symantec Corp. This is good news for businesses like The Canadian Pharmacy, who often get confused with their fraudulent spamming counterparts.

This reduction was particularly effective in stopping pharmaceutical spam, which accounted for 85 per cent of spam in May 2010, but was just 59.1 per cent of the spam being sent in January. This is largely due to the recent shutdown of the Russian organization Spamit responsible for sending out Canadian Pharmacy spam.

Related Story: ‘Canadian Pharmacy’ spam – a nightmare for legit firms

Paul Wood, a senior analyst with MessageLabs Intelligence, says that Spamit most likely was shut down on its own accord, rather than through government intervention, and may return at some point.

“It may be that it re-invents itself in another form. It had certainly attracted a great deal of attention due to its high profile activities,” says Wood. “It is believed to have connections with the notorious Russian Business Network (RBN) criminal organization, which itself has moved from one location to another and reinvented itself many times. It is perhaps only a matter of time before the Spamit affiliate program reappears in another guise, if it hasn’t done so already.”

David Zimmer is the owner of The Canadian Pharmacy, a small Winnipeg-based business that specializes in delivering medication to customers in the United States at a reduced price. Zimmer says his company was often confused with the fictional company invented by spammers, Canadian Pharmacy, and so dealing with victims of their fraud became a regular part of his business.

“We sometimes have a hard time explaining to them that we are two different organizations, and they haven’t dealt with us in the past,” says Zimmer. “If we get disgruntled patients on the telephone, they are looking for Canadian Pharmacy. So, if I get fewer calls from disgruntled customers, it will save a lot of stress on our part.”

Wood says this means despite the fact spammers have completely stopped using the Canadian Pharmacy brand, it is only a matter of time before they start sending out other spam brands.

Although this decrease in spam was not related to Canada’s new anti-spam law, which will come into effect later this year, counsel John Lawford of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre says it may be a glimpse of what is to come.

“It should eventually have some effect, depending on the way it is enforced and depending on how much cooperation we get from other countries,” says Lawford. “Part of the bill is aimed at controlling spyware and botnets, but… the bill is also aimed at more legitimate marketers who get a bit more aggressive about not getting consent to send newsletters and more mundane stuff. As far as those big networks of bots go, it really matters the way the investigation and international cooperation goes.”

Lawford says the law has most likely not made any effect yet, as it was just given Royal Assent in December.

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