Chinese Spammers Evade Authorities With Round-Trip Scheme

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

The spam messages reach as many as 50,000 people per day in China. Close

The spam messages reach as many as 50,000 people per day in China.

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Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

The spam messages reach as many as 50,000 people per day in China.

Here's one instance where China has outsourced its work to the U.S., though not in a way you'd appreciate.

According to AdaptiveMobile, a Dublin, Ireland-based security firm, a Chinese organization called SIKA has become one of the world's most prolific text-message spamming services. Their method for success? They use mobile phones in the U.S. to send massive amounts of messages, such as pitches for payday loans and sweepstakes scams.

And their target? Mobile-phone users back in China.

That a China-based spamming group would use U.S. devices to bombard people back in their own country represents a novel twist in the scheme and highlights a wide gap between how mobile networks are policed in the U.S. and China, said Cathal McDaid, AdaptiveMobile's head of security operations.

"Spamware botnets are not unknown in China, but this is the first case of a criminal group outsourcing the launching of their spam attacks to the United States," McDaid said in an e-mail interview.

AdaptiveMobile's research suggests that the phones, possibly hundreds of them, are dedicated spamming machines and haven't been hacked, according to McDaid. The Chinese-language messages reach as many as 50,000 people per day in China and can account for 20 percent of all such spam emanating from North America on some days, he said.

Source: AdaptiveMobile Spam Data

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Source: AdaptiveMobile Spam Data

The reason for SIKA's round-trip approach is that it's easier to evade detection on U.S. networks than in China, where the government maintains tight control of digital communication, McDaid said.

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