It is often said that the love of money is the root of all evil, and in the case of spam (unsolicited commercial email) that appears to be more than true. After all, the whole reason spammers flood your inbox trying to get you to buy drugs and porn is to make money, and several reports claim that more than 90% of all email is spam.
According to research done at several universities, the easiest way to shut down spammers is to go after the banks that process payments for them. The researchers found that the number of organizations involved in spam is generally large — including the spammers themselves who generate the emails, the botnets that use unsuspecting computers to forward on spam, the hosting providers that host the websites where spam-promoted goods are purchased, and the affiliate networks that provide the technology like shopping carts and billing systems. In their research, the spam they received contained almost a billion URLs, but all these URLs led to just 45 different affiliate networks.
But the real surprise was that over 95% of all spam transactions were processed by just three banks: Azerigazbank in Azerbaijan, St Kitts & Nevis Anguilla National Bank in St Kitts & Nevis, and Norwegian-owned DnB Nord in Latvia. This is the weakest link in the chain, and if we could shut down these banks, or at least stop them from funding spammers, then the spam problem would largely go away.
All it would take is for all the other banks to refuse to do business with banks that fund spammers. If your bank won’t hand over your credit card info to a spammer bank, that would cut off the spammer’s lifeline. A similar technique has been proposed to shut down online gambling sites.
So why haven’t the banks done this? Is it because they make too much money supporting spam?