The text message (SMS) spamming trio of Naveed Ahmed, Dewayne Watts and Phillip Fleitz was busted after the FBI had taken down the infamous Darkode cybercrime forum. Both Ahmed, Watts and Fleitz pleaded guilty, two of them have been sentenced to probation while one has yet to be sentenced by court.
Text message spamming could seem like a victimless or a harmless crime, however, it could be dangerous since if you click to the link the spammers sent you, it could lead to a phishing site where all your details could be stolen. In a better case, the spam messages only include affiliate links that the senders use to make money. Malware can also be delivered by SMS spamming.
According to the law enforcement authorities, the spammer trio developed an elaborate scheme to send their spam to the recipients. The trio used fast and reliable servers in China to infect computers via vulnerable routers with spambots, mostly based in third-world countries, which would send spam emails that are converted to text messages.
Ahmed, who was the most sophisticated one in technology matters, wrote a program that helped the group match the cell phone numbers with their carriers. Watts wrote the text messages that acted as bait, and Fleitz operated the servers.
The trio made around 2000-3000$ per week and they operated their “business” from September 2011 to February 2013. The CAN-SPAM (anti-spam) law could give the three men up to five years in prison, however, plea agreements have provided two with probation instead of jail.
Although the men live in Florida and Indiana, the trio’s case was handled in the Western District of Pennsylvania, where several other cybercriminals were busted and prosecuted in the Darkode takedown.
A similar case happened last year too with another Darkode member, Eric L. Crocker, who pleaded guilty last August to spreading spam and malware on Facebook.