“Uncover the Truth Behind Spam” / 迷惑メールを追う(1)steemCreated with Sketch.

in news •  last year 

Uncover the Truth Behind Spam

-Your Special Mission News Crew-

In this modern day and age, over 80% of the population has either a smartphone or cellphone. Most people have likely experienced receiving a variety of unexpected “spam” messages. These messages can be fraudulent and there have been victims in some cases. Who and how are these messages actually being sent? The Special Mission News Crew set out of uncover the truth behind spam.

Mr. Sato (30s, alias) arrived at the train station in Tokyo at the agreed time. As a system engineer in his twenties, he was involved in a spam messaging scheme while working at a venture company in Tokyo. He agreed to this interview on the condition of anonymity.

“A certain organization asked us to develop a system that would send a mass volume of emails. We complied and actually sent these emails.” According to his statement, the system they developed was not particularly unique. Rather, it was a bulk mail system similar to a system where users sign up for e-mail newsletters.


Tokyo, image

“On a busy day, we would send 200 million emails.”

Dummy corporations were established in nine different countries such as China and the United States of America, as well as countries in South America, Europe and Africa. These corporations were founded to protect themselves from investigators. Over one thousand servers used to send and receive emails were scattered across these countries. Sato operated all these systems from Japan. These servers were used to send seventy to eighty thousand emails per minute. “On a busy day, we would send 200 million emails.” He frequently went on international business trips to develop this system and was even in Beijing, China for a month.

They even had a plan to evade authorities. The CEOs of their dummy corporations were paid approximately three million Japanese yen per month to act as the scapegoat if the authorities ever investigated their practice. In fact, two of their CEOs were arrested in China by the Public Security Bureau. “We bribed the authorities with 10-20% of our income. After being released the next day, we went out for drinks with the authorities.”

They further protected themselves by posting certain characters online that would automatically erase all evidence of the system they created. “My life was on the line. There was no way I was going to let myself get caught.”

What kind of organization was behind asking Mr. Sato to develop this system?

Hosts Responded to Lure Repliers to Online Dating Websites

Mr. Sato (30s, alias), a system engineer, testified that he developed a spam messaging system and even sent the messages. The organization that asked him to develop this system claimed to be an advertising agency. This organization’s registered address was a single room apartment in Tokyo.
“Including the part-time employees, there were about ten people working at this business. Five of them were full-time employees. They were either overweight, seemed meek, or were freshly out of university. It was a group of ordinary, young adults.”
Sato was tasked with sending spam messages given to him by the full-time employees. He would then send the messages to a specific list at a designated time.

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“I’m waiting for you at ABC station.”
According to his testimony, they would send a standardized email. For example, for every 100 million emails sent, they would receive about a thousand responses. The part-time employees would then be tasked with sending finely tuned responses to each of them.

Scouted by the full-time employees, most of these part-timers were hosts and hostesses who worked at night clubs in Kabukicho and Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Utilizing their linguistic ability to lure guests into night clubs, the part-timers would sweet talk people who responded to their spam messages. Using their cellphones, they would do this throughout the day from home and at the office.


Kabukicho, image

The objective was to lure people to an “online dating website” where users would purchase points to send and receive messages from the opposite sex. This scheme was actually an online “non-dating” website. When promised a date, no one would show. Conveniently, someone would message, “I’m having a terrible tummy ache” and would request to postpone the date as many times as possible. This scheme ended up luring ten to twenty people who became heavy spenders by purchasing points repeatedly.
“There was a middle-aged woman who ended up spending thirty million yen. Women in their forties or fifties whose husbands wouldn’t give them any attention, those who were divorced, and those who were frustrated were easy targets.”

Sato says, “This advertising agency made over ten million yen per month.”

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As of December 2017, 1.31 billion emails are sent to cellphones and smartphones every day, according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Of these messages, 493.62 million or approximately 38% of these messages are spam. Regardless of the recent decline, this is still a staggering number of spam messages.

During 2016, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan received 45,853 consultations. Of these, over 40% were from seniors over sixty. One man in his sixties was swindled when he paid a “processing fee” after responding to a message that claimed he won over 100 million yen.


Sato is aware that he was an accomplice to a crime. He had just started his career, however, and had been ordered to do so by the company that hired him when he was desperately looking for work. “What I did made me feel like a mosquito drinking human blood. I had to do it to survive.” He resigned a few years ago and is currently working a regular job as an engineer.

Considering that spam continues to victimize people, we asked what the best course of action is.

First and foremost, “do not respond to spam.” Furthermore, “do not include personal information in your email address and make sure your SNS passwords are complicated.” Also, be sure to use a mixture of capitalized and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using words and make your password at least 12 characters.

“However,” he added, “spam is intended to appeal to dissatisfactions and human emotions. As long as spam exploits this psychological aspect, there will continue to be victims.” It seems the problem is not a vulnerable system but a vulnerable human psyche.
This is the first of a four-part Your Special Mission News Crew to “Uncover the Truth Behind Spam”. The second and third part will introduce what happened when we responded to spam. The fourth part will explore how email addresses are handled.

【迷惑メールを追う】1日2億通、送信元は9カ国に分散 システム開発者が仕組み証言










返信対応はホスト 甘い言葉で「出会い系」誘導




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  ·  last year (edited)

So the problem is not strictly in the design of systems, but in the psychological dependencies of users of systems . . . Exactly.

Frank Herbert would've agreed.

Among other things I study networks and correspond with many other academics on the subject. Most of them believe at the moment also that no automatic design can get around the issue of psychology. And the issue of the specific preferences of users.

Experiments like Steem will make it clearer whether that is the case. Such systems allow users to cash out. Therefore they arguably supply sufficient incentives for users to behave in a way that reveals their preferences.

Then observed user behavior can test theories in a valid way, in the sense of experimental economics in the tradition of Vernon Smith.