Phish spammers are apparently exploiting mailing list software
One of the interesting things I've observed recently through my sinkhole SMTP server is a small number of phish spams that have been sent to me by what is clearly mailing list software; the latest instance was sent by a Mailman installation, for example. Although I initially thought all three of the emails I've spotted were all from one root cause, it turns out that there are several different things apparently going on.
In one case, the phish spammer clearly seems to have compromised a
legitimate machine with mailing list software and then used that
software to make themselves a phish spamming mailing list. It's
easy to see the attraction of this; it makes the phish spammer much
more efficient in that it takes them less time to send stuff to
more people. In an interesting twist, the
Received headers of the
email I got say that the spammer initially sent it with the envelope
firstname.lastname@example.org (which matched their
and then the mailing list software rewrote the envelope sender.
In the most clear-cut case, the phish spammer seems to have sent out their spam through a commercial site that advertises itself as (hosted) 'Bulk Email Marketing Software'. This suggests that the phish spammer was willing to spend some money on their spamming, or at least burned a stolen credit card (the website advertises fast signups, which mean that credit cards mean basically nothing). I'm actually surprised that this doesn't happen more often, given that my impression is that the spam world is increasingly commercialized and phish spammers now often buy access to compromised machines instead of compromising the machines themselves. If you're going to spend money one way or another and you can safely just buy use of a commercial spam operation, well, why not?
(I say 'seems to' because the domain I got it from is not quite the same as the commercial site's main domain, although there are various indications tying it to them. If the phish spammer is trying to frame this commercial site, they went to an unusually large amount of work to do so.)
The third case is the most interesting to me. It uses a domain that was registered two days before it sent the phish spam and that domain was registered by an organization called 'InstantBulkSMTP'. The sending IP, 126.96.36.199, was also apparently also assigned on the same day. The domain has now disappeared but the sending IP now has DNS that claims it is 'mta1.strakbody.com' and the website for that domain is the control panel for something called 'Interspire Email Marketer'. So my operating theory is that it's somewhat like the second case; a phish spammer found a company that sets up this sort of stuff and paid them some money (or gave them a bad credit card) for a customized service. The domain name they used was probably picked to be useful for the phish spam target.
(The domain was 'titolaricartasi.info' and the phish target was cartasi.it. Google Translate claims that 'titolari' translates to 'holders'.)
PS: All of this shows the hazards of looking closely at spam. Until I started writing this entry, I had thought that all three cases were the same and were like the first one, ie phish spammers exploiting compromised machines with mailing list managers. Then things turned out to be more complicated and my nice simple short blog entry disappeared in a puff of smoke.