An investigation into a seemingly routine series of spam messages has revealed how sophisticated the business of online crime has become.
The story begins with the junk mail messages themselves that were sent during April and May of 2006.
Analysis of the junk mail revealed that many of the junk messages had, hidden within them, text from JRR Tolkien’s classic work The Hobbit.
This text was included, said Mr Peterson, in an attempt to convince spam filters that the messages were genuine and not junk. Many spam messages use excerpts from novels or other works in this way.
Analysis of the net addresses where the e-mail messages originated showed that more than 100,000 hijacked home computers spread across 119 nations had been used to despatch the junk mail.
“We ran the sources of this and found out a massive distribution of countries,” Mr Peterson told the BBC News website, “it’s very much centred in Europe.”
This widespread, sophisticated infrastructure involved more than 1500 web domains that acted as the web shops for the drugs advertised in the junk messages.