Russian spam about spam looks like a ransom note

Like anyone else who’s been on the net for twenty years or more, I’ve had a few email addresses in my time. One of them, which I barely ever use, is for a website I created more than 15 years ago and hardly ever update. And it receives an awful lot of Russian language spam. In fact it gets more Russian spam than spam in any other language.

I don’t particularly mind this, and have never bothered to put an anti-spam filter in place for it. After all, in my line of work it’s kind-of interesting to get to see spam. :)

Here’s an example of some Russian language spam I received last night in that email account:

Russian spam which looks like a ransom note

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As you can see, the spammers have created the electronic equivalent of a traditional ransom note. They may not have cut each letter of their ransom demand from a newspaper, but they’ve produced the electronic equivalent. And they are using an image rather than text in the email in an attempt to slip past the more rudimentary anti-spam filters.

I asked Dmitry in our labs to translate the message for me, and he tells me that this is spam about spam!

It reads:

"We have access to your potential clients. If you want to contact them, order bulk email services from us. Tel: ...."

A Russian language spam offering bulk-mailing services isn’t actually that unusual. We see many messages promoting Russian services to send spam, and clearly there is a feeling amongst some firms that this is an acceptable way for their products and services to be marketed.

Furthermore, unlike a lot of the spam we see worldwide, it’s not unusual for Russian-language spam to contain contact telephone numbers rather than a web address.

Presenting your service using the traditional methods of a kidnapper, however, makes me raise an eyebrow. I mean, what company would take an approach like this seriously? Would you really want to do some shady business with guys like this?

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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