“It’s Me in the Picture of Spam”—Stealing Selfies from Blogs and Flipping Photos to Stay Hidden/迷惑メールを追う3

in technology •  last year

“Uncover the Truth Behind Spam” Part3

We were contacted by a reader of Part 2: “Uncover the Truth Behind Spam”. In the article, we introduced how we responded to a spam message that included a picture of a woman claiming to be a 22-year-old working at a café. Seeing this article, one of our readers thought, “The girl in this picture looks like my daughter.” It appeared that a picture from her blog had been stolen. The spammer used a certain “trick” to stay hidden.

Our Special Mission News Crew reached out to Ms. Ayami (21, alias) . “That is definitely me,” the college student said, as she identified herself in a picture from a year or two ago. “I post selfies almost daily as a hobby.” Her blog’s privacy settings allowed anyone to see her posts.


Original Photo Stolen from Ms. Ayami’s Blog where She Introduces Makeup Techniques

Other online dating websites also maliciously used her photos. Her friends and Twitter follows had pointed out repeatedly, “Isn’t this you, Ayami?”
Spam messages that said “Hi, I’m Yuko” and “Let’s meet up” try to lure people to suspicious websites. “They make it seem like I’m doing something bad. I really wish they would stop doing this.”
Comparing the photo of Ayami from her blog with the photo used in the spam message, we realized that the original picture had been mirrored. Ayami wondered, “Do they do this to keep from getting found in image searches?”

Image searches such as Google allow users to copy, paste, and search for images to find websites that the pictures are posted on. It is not uncommon for photos used in spam messages to originate from other online posts.
According to an employee at a large IT firm, image searches utilize an algorithm that identifies similar colors and lines. “Although a person would be able to easily identify these as the same picture that had been mirrored, the search engine doesn’t recognize the similarity. In theory, the image search should not provide an appropriate result.”
Flipping the axis of a picture is a systematic blind spot. Both the victim who had their photo stolen and the person who received the picture would have difficulty identifying suspicious practice, which is ideal for the sender.

Selfie from Personal Blog (edited to protect privacy)


Photo from Spam Message (edited to protect privacy)

We experimented with another spam message picture from a person named “Sarara”. There were no results when searching for the image we received. But when we searched for the same photo after simply flipping the picture on our computer, we were led to a website. The search result showed the women in the photo was a model.
We contacted her modeling agency. The picture was stolen from her personal Instagram account. They were aware that her photo had been used for brothel advertisements, but it was the first they heard of her photo being using for spam. Her agent sighed and said, “We can’t identify who did this so we will just have to suck it up.”


Flipping photos on their axis is a problem across the globe. The Brazilian ‘surfing war photographer' accumulated 120,000 followers on Instagram before being exposed as a fraud. Before posting the photos, he had inverted and edited photos shot by actual photographers working in Iraq.

What legal repercussions are involved in stealing photos and using them for spam. On one hand, it could be argued that people have no say in what happens after posting their photos on a public platform such as the internet. Fukuoka University Faculty of Law, Associate Professor Takashi Jitsuhara (public law and information law) said, “That is not entirely true.” He argues that victims can sue such malicious vendors for compensation by claiming slander and violating rights to use images of one’s likeness.
Considering the financial cost and time invested in filing a suit, “It may be better to avoid publicly posting pictures of your face,” he concludes.

迷惑メールの写真は私 業者がブログの自撮り盗用 左右反転させ発覚避ける

「迷惑メールの写真の女性は娘ではないか」-。顔写真付きの迷惑メールを記者に送ってきた「22歳のカフェ店員」に返信し、やりとりを報告した迷惑メールを追うPart 2: “Uncover the Truth Behind Spam”. 。記事を読んだ女性の家族から問い合わせがあった。ブログの写真が盗用された疑いがあるという。迷惑メール送信業者は発覚を避けるためか、ある「仕掛け」をしていた。




















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Wow..... what are the odds of that young girl's mother seeing that post.😫 What luck