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 ><B0000036788@mail.comp-sol.com>; 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 "
does not belong to "
hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com." How do we
know this? Simple, we use a tool called
for many platforms). Here is what we see:
[188.8.131.52] Translated Name: bullets.cybercon.com IP Address: 184.108.40.206 [hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com] Translated Name: hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com IP Address: 220.127.116.11
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.
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 [18.104.22.168] by Willowsprings.mci.net (8.8.5/8.6.5) with SMTP id GAA02664 for <email@example.com>; 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 <don@Willowsprings.mci.net>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.
><HTML><PRE><BODY BGCOLOR="#000000"><FONT COLOR="#00FFFF" SIZE=3> >Everybody loves Mr. Chicken!
Ah, here's where it gets amusing! So, let's just enjoy this spam for a moment, shall we?
>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
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
Cyber Promotions (ANSWERME4-DOM) 8001 Castor Avenue, Suite #127 Philadelphia, PA 19152 USA
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
firstname.lastname@example.org and also to
email@example.com. This won't do anything, but what the heck.
></FONT><FONT COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3>
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
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:
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;
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 definitely 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 "
1 22.214.171.124 (126.96.36.199) 2 alpha-nomad.alpha.net (188.8.131.52) 3 mke-1.alpha.net (184.108.40.206) 4 chicago2-cr2.bbnplanet.net (220.127.116.11) 5 chicago1-br1.bbnplanet.net (18.104.22.168) 6 core5-hssi5-0.WillowSprings.mci.net (22.214.171.124) 7 core1.NorthRoyalton.mci.net (126.96.36.199) 8 core-hssi-2.Chicago.mci.net (188.8.131.52) 9 border4-fddi-0.Chicago.mci.net (184.108.40.206) 10 startnet-llc.Chicago.mci.net (220.127.116.11) 11 router.cybercon.com (18.104.22.168) 12 bullets.cybercon.com (22.214.171.124)
So, we know they get their service from mci.net. Therefore, a complaint also
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 126.96.36.199 [rs.internic.net] STARNET, L.L.C. (NETBLK-STARNET-CBLK) P.O. Box 6286 St. Louis, MO 63006-6286 Netname: STARNET-CBLK Netblock: 188.8.131.52 - 184.108.40.206 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 220.127.116.11 NEWS.STARNET.NET 18.104.22.168 NS1.DRA.NET 22.214.171.124 Record last updated on 30-Aug-96.
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:
cybercon.com," we find only this:
*******************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*****************
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?
[nothing of consequence found]
What about doing a search for "
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,
firstname.lastname@example.org (their upstream provider) from the
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 (MrChicken@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 [126.96.36.199]) >by mail.comp-sol.com (EMWAC SMTPRS 0.83) with SMTP id ><B0000036788@mail.comp-sol.com>; Wed, 10 Sep 1997 20:00:52 -0500 >From: email@example.com >Received: from 188.8.131.52 (hd70-155.hil.compuserve.com [184.108.40.206]) > 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 [220.127.116.11] by Willowsprings.mci.net (8.8.5/8.6.5) with SMTP id GAA02664 for <firstname.lastname@example.org>; 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 <don@Willowsprings.mci.net> ><HTML><PRE><BODY BGCOLOR="#000000"><FONT COLOR="#00FFFF" SIZE=3> >Everybody loves Mr. Chicken! >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 ></FONT><FONT COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3>
OK, folks, that's it for tonight. Any questions? If not, class is dismissed.
Bill Mattocks, CIIU
Last updated: 10 September 1997