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26 Jul 2005

Notorious Russian spammer found murdered, Sophos reports

Vardan Kushnir was found bludgeoned to death in his Moscow apartment
Vardan Kushnir was found bludgeoned to death in his Moscow apartment.

According to media reports, Russian authorities are currently investigating the murder of spammer Vardan Kushnir, a 35-year old found bludgeoned to death in his Moscow apartment on Sunday night.

Kushnir, who ran an American language centre in the capital, was seen as Russia's most notorious spammer, accused of inundating millions of internet users with unsolicited mail inviting them to attend English classes at his centre.

Several media reports suggest that many Russian computer users were frustrated with the centre's spam campaign. In August 2003, Sophos reported on Russian Deputy Communications Minister Andrei Korotkov being so enraged by the amount of spam he was receiving from the centre, he launched a counter-attack: unsolicited phone calls. The American language centre's office manager, Natalya Petrova, reported that they were bombarded with more than 1000 automated phone calls in a single morning.

"If Kushnir was murdered as a result of sending unsolicited spam, Russian law-makers might want to reconsider their current computer crime legislation," said Carole Theriault, security consultant at Sophos. "Rather than consider taking the law into their own hands, email users annoyed with unsolicited mail should consider blocking it at their email gateway - an infinitely easier, more effective and legal way of getting rid of spam."

Russia does have fundamental computer crime legislation in place, though reports claim there are none dealing specifically with spam legislation. Despite this, Russia managed to convict a teenaged university student for sending spam. The unnamed student was accused of hacking into one of Russia's biggest mobile phone networks and sending obscene spam to 15,000 mobile phones in June 2004. Media reports state that he received a one-year suspended sentence and ordered to pay a $100(USD) fine.

The investigation continues.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.