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Russian Spam Site Shuts Down, Dramatically Decreasing Spam Worldwide

The shutdown of one site has dropped the number of spam emails by billions. NATHAN HOWARD/AP hide caption

toggle caption NATHAN HOWARD/AP

You might have noticed you're getting a little less e-mail these days. Russian authorities say they launched a criminal investigation of Igor Gusev, a suspected spam kingpin and thought to be behind the site SpamIt.com. The New York Times reports that police think Gusev has fled the country and the effects have been dramatic.

Moscow police authorities said Mr. Gusev, 31, was a central figure in the operations of SpamIt.com, which paid spammers to promote online pharmacies, sometimes quite lewdly. SpamIt.com suddenly stopped operating on Sept. 27. With less financial incentive to send their junk mail, spammers curtailed their activity by an estimated 50 billion messages a day.

Police are accusing Gusev of operating a pharmacy without a license. Russia has long been somewhat lackadaisical about spammers. The NYT piece says the connection between the spammers and authorities in Russia has long been suspect.

Computer security researchers have conjectured that spamming gangs have sometimes been co-opted by the intelligence agencies in Russia, which provide cover for the spamming activities in exchange for the criminals’ expertise or for allowing their networks of virus-infected computers to be used for political purposes — to crash dissident Web sites, for example, or to foster attacks on foreign adversaries.

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