One of biggest spam operators has had its entire database of 1.4 billion email addresses leaked online after being discovered by security researcher, Chris Vickery.

According to Vickery, the database belongs to an organization called River City Media (RCM), led by Alvin Slocombe and Matt Ferris. The two men are ‘known spammers’ and the company is known for ‘masquerading as a legitimate marketing firm’ when the reality is much different.

The discovery was made after Vickery stumbled upon a suspicious, put publicly exposed, collection of files,” which someone forgot to password protect, allowing anyone to access the list. Vickery was shocked to find a database of 1.4 billion email addresses, including additional physical addresses, IP addresses, and real names.

The files also contained a lot of internal documents, such as Hipchat logs and domain registration records, accounting information, and production notes. However, it is the cache of the email addresses that is the most revealing. It appears that these email addresses were collected through credit check offers, sweepstakes, and other techniques like co-registration, whereby an individual signs up for a service and had their email address shared with a third party.

Vickery also highlighted the techniques used by RCM to send over one billion spam emails a day while also getting around anti-spam measures. These include ‘warm up accounts’, automatically generated and maintained by RCM.  RCM has since been reported to Spamhaus and is now blacklisted, putting an end to their spam campaigns, for now at least.

According to NNT CTO Mark Kedgley, “The only thing that’s certain in these complex circumstances is that the risk of falling victim to a breach is a constant. A two-pronged approach is the only way to go- get layered defenses in place, but also back it up with real-time host intrusion detection through File Integrity Monitoring, ensuring that if a cyber-attack proves successful at the very least you get to know about it.”


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