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News and Commentary

January 17 2007

Did we strike a nerve?


In recent months, has published a series of articles focusing on “spam” emails that promote obscure penny stocks.  Most of these spams can be seen for what they are - transparent efforts, by not-so-transparent individuals, to manipulate the market for a stock.  The people behind these schemes do not reveal themselves or their true purpose.  They prey on naiveté and greed.  They rely upon volume, sending out hundreds of thousands – in some cases millions – of emails in search of a few gullible investors.  


The individuals who engineer these schemes, and those who implement them, are truly masters of the Internet, if not the universe.  They have developed or hired the requisite technical skills, software, and computer capacity to distribute these spam messages around the world.  And, because messages traveling over the Internet can bounce from one address and location to another before reaching their final destination, the source of these messages is virtually impossible to trace. 


Indeed, some of the scammers “hijack” computers, hacking into computers at homes and offices (and, yes, that may include yours) and using them as a conduit or origination point for the bogus emails.  They also can “appropriate” urls – web addresses- - belonging to innocent parties, and make it appear that those unrelated website are the originators of the promotion.  


We raise these issues because some readers may have noticed that our site was not available for approximately 24 hours this past weekend.  As we subsequently learned, was the victim of a cyberspace assault that evidently was calculated to disable our site and make our reports inaccessible.


Here – as we understand it – is how it worked.  Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of computers around the world attempted to log on to – at a furious pace.  Once volume becomes unmanageable most servers issue a DOS – Denial of Service – and take the overburdened site offline.  In this instance the attack was massive.  One computer owner in the Netherlands reported that his equipment was sending 500 “hits” to every 2 seconds.  The computer owner did not control the process.  Instead, a program had been implanted in his computer which, once triggered, initiated the hits.  He was not aware that the program existed until his Internet connection was compromised while the assault was underway.


Naturally, we contacted appropriate authorities who have sufficient global resources to track these Internet terrorists. 


As we have noted time and again, the Information Superhighway is a two-way street.  It allows us to gather a wealth of information.  But, at the same time, it facilitates the distribution of misleading information and the perpetration of myriad schemes.


And, as we discovered, the Internet can be manipulated.  Armed with sufficient resources, determined individuals can disseminate millions of bogus spam emails or activate programs designed to cripple a website. 





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