Ever heard of F-Secure? No? Well, you should. These guys are totally superheroes.

Perhaps not the kind of superheroes that you have in mind, though. Instead of being a bunch of mutants with superpowers beating the hell out of bad guys, they are researchers who dedicate themselves to protect customers from the darkest spawn of the Internet: viruses, malware and spam.

Since it’s part of their job to do a thorough spam research, the team bravely decided to buy products advertised in spam emails and see what happened. Though it’s not recommended for you to do test purchases from spam emails, the results were not what you might expect:

While doing some spam research a couple of years ago, we did a series of test purchases from spam e-mails.

We bought pills, software, cigarettes, et cetera. We were a bit surprised that almost all of the orders went through and actually delivered goods. Sure, the Windows CD we got was a poor clone and the Rolex was obviously fake, but at least they sent us something.

We were carefully watching the credit card accounts we created for our tests but we never saw any fraudulent use of them.

The most surprising outcome from this test was that we didn’t see more spam to the e-mail addresses we used to order the goods.

Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? If you still haven’t received anything from legit websites you ordered months ago, this might be time for you to take a look in your junk folder.

Banks Profit From Spam

F-Secure’s findings were then reinforced by a new study on the worldwide spam business published by University of California researchers. The authors of this study did their research not only by doing spam-advertised purchases (see? everyone’s doing that already!), but also by tracking down the botnets used to send the emails, the hosting systems to host the spam sites and the banks that moved the money. One of the most interesting details in the study is this: almost all spam sales worldwide are handled by just three banks.

These banks are:

•  DnB NOR (a Norwegian bank)
•  St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla National Bank (in the Caribbean)
•  Azerigazbank (from Azerbaijan)