FBI identifies major Russian spam oligarch

According to security researcher Brian Krebs, a grand jury probe has indicted Moscow resident Oleg Nikolaenko as the author and operator of the Mega-D botnet.

"Federal agents settled on Nikolaenko thanks to information provided by Lance Atkinson, an Australian man named as a co-conspirator in the 'Affking' e-mail marketing and counterfeiting operation that was shuttered in 2008 after investigations by the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission and international law enforcement authorities", noted Krebs in his security blog.

The Affking program, he says, generated revenues of $500 000 a month using spam to promote counterfeit Rolexes, herbal 'male enhancement' pills and generic prescription drugs.

Krebs asserts that, as part of his plea to spam violations, Atkinson gave his investigators information on the top spam generators who helped to promote the Affking products.

"Amongst them was an affiliate who used the online nickname 'Docent', who, in return for spamming Affking's products, earned nearly $467,000 in commissions over a six month period in 2007", he said.

Krebs goes on to say that US investigators missed two chances to arrest the 23-year-old, once in July 2009 and again in October of the same year.

The Mega-D botnet, he adds, infected at least 120 000 PCs at its height in November of last year, but over the last few months, there has not been much activity from the botnet.

"While Mega-D may be dead, information obtained by KrebsOnSecurity.com suggests that Nikolaenko has nonetheless continued spamming, and that, until at least June 2010, he was a top-earning affiliate for Spamit.com", said Krebs.

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