On October 3, 2013 Adobe’s Database was hacked and about 150,000,000 Adobe users have their data exposed to a bunch of hackers. Anyone who even registered a single Adobe product , like I did,now has to deal with some extra spam in their mailbox. Unfortunately for the spammers, I used an alias that was used for just Adobe and after the hack, I provided them a new alias. As a result, any email on this old alias is now considered spam.
The hacked database was published and several companies have been datamining it to find their own users inside the database and to warn those users. In my case, only Adobe gave me a warning since only Adobe knew my alias. However, some companies are misusing the same database to pretend people have subscribed to their services and are sending spam to those people. And one of those companies calls itself TipsViaEmail.
First of all, if I did subscribe to their services, I would have used a different alias for them. Instead, they’re spamming me on my Adobe alias. Why? Not really sure but I guess they’re trying to make some profit this way.
Today I received a spam message from TipsViaEmail about some new way to chat with random people through Whatsapp. A bit like “Chat roulette” but on top of the Whatsapp engine. I’m not going to post the URL to this app because my virus scanner warned me about possible malware on their site. It seems extremely unreliable to me and is likely part of a trick to collect phone numbers, email addresses and perhaps even to infect mobile phones with malware. Don’t even try their stuff!
I think TipsViaEmail makes profit because they’re paid by these malicious companies to spam a lot of people. TipsViaEmail has a source of legitimate email accounts and claims these people subscribed to their service. So, people have to prove they never subscribed, which is difficult to do. How do you prove it? Well, I can because I have a habit of assigning aliases to every company I contact. And I can show how they got my address since they used my Adobe alias that was stolen by hackers.
They keep sending me emails once in a while but in low quantities so they won’t get a bad reputation with their providers. They send these spam messages through vistomail.com, which happens to offer ways to send email anonymously. Thus Vistomail is enabling spammers to send spam.
TipsViaEmail also allows a way to unsubscribe from their services by sending an email to an address at simpel-nieuwsbrief.com or by following a link at simpeltracking2.nl. In both cases, doing so would confirm your email address to TipsForEmail, making it profitable to sell to other spammers. They might stop spamming you, but those other spammers will start spamming you afterwards. At WhatCounts they calculated how much they could make by selling an email address and they earned about $17.34 per address! So we’re not talking about pennies when we’re talking about the value of email addresses.
And TipsViaEmail got their list for free because those hackers, who published the whole database!
So first, if you ever subscribed to an Adobe product then change your password immediately! Not just the password for your Adobe account but for all other accounts you have that used the same password! The passwords in the Adobe database were encrypted, but this encryption is being broken now so they will soon be exposed.
Next, find a way to use your own aliases with your mail provider. I did this by just getting my domain name, which costs me EUR 9.95 per year. I also use Google Apps so Google handles my email, even though it’s on my domain. And no, I don’t fear the NSA spying in my mailboxes. I just won’t send top-secret stuff by email anyways. It costs me another EUR 40,00 per year. But Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo Mail also offer similar services to connect your own domain to their email services. I just prefer Google since I think they have the best spam filter.
Finally, if you notice spam arriving at any alias, contact the company responsible for leaking your alias. (Adobe in my case.) They might not know their system has been hacked. And feel free to report the email to the proper channels. SpamCop is a good option internationally. (Do be aware that their URL ends at .net, since there are many copycats misusing their name!) For Dutch people you can report them too at SpamKlacht and people in Belgium can report spam to E-Cops.
(And don’t get fooled by spammers claiming you subscribed and who offer you an unsubscribe option. Unsubscribing will confirm your address, making it more valuable!)