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Prominent Spammer Releases Massive Database of Emails - On Accident

Internet spam can be a real problem. With the first unsolicited message being traced all the way back to 1978, computer users have been combating spam for decades. Likewise, companies known for the spam advertising techniques are typically frowned upon by the brunt of consumers. Just in case you didn’t already hate the concept of spam, one of the most prominent spamming operations just released 1.4 billion email addresses – accidentally – by carelessness when backing up their files.

The exact amount of fallout we’ll see as a result of the leaked data is unclear; the incident occurred in early 2017. What is for certain, however, is that even spammers are finding it difficult to manage the amount of data they’re generating on a daily basis.

According to reports, River City Media, who regularly distributes more than 1 billion emails every single day, apparently failed to complete a remote backup of their databases back in January 2017. Security expert Chris Vickery found the data online and was able to access it without overcoming any sort of security measures whatsoever; the information wasn’t even password-protected.

Vickery took it one step further by verifying the authenticity of the data. By scanning the massive email list for names he actually knew, he was able to independently verify whether or not the spammer’s information was accurate. And it was.

“The situation presents a tangible threat to online privacy and security as it involves a database of 1.4 billion email accounts combined with real names, user IP addresses, and often physical address.” Chris Vickery said in a recent blog post. “Chances are that you, or at least someone you know, is affected.”

Although River City Media has worked with brands like AT&T, Gillette and Nike, it’s safe to say that 1.4 people did not willingly give the marketing firm their information. According to Vickery, most of their data was likely obtained through the process of co-registration. Many sites share their user info with other companies, including River City Media, so this is the most likely scenario. While it’s an shady practice to say the least, users give websites permission to share their data when agreeing to the terms of their site.

The leak was so huge and so far-reaching that the Indian government, who was initially thought to be the source of the 1.4 billion emails, had to issue a public statement to deny their role. According to their statement: “There has been no incident of misuse of Aadhaar biometrics leading to identity theft and financial loss during the last five years when more than 400 crore Aadhaar authentication transactions have taken place, according to Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).”

Not only does this shine a public spotlight on some of the common tactics used by modern spammers, but it also highlights the importance of reading the terms and conditions – as well as the fine print – of any websites you join. While you can’t necessarily control what they do with your information once it’s in their hands, you can prevent them from having it in the first place.


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