Viagra, Prozac, Levitra spam rakes in more than $4,000 per day

Spam about pharmaceutical drugs can generate more than $4,000 per day in sales, according to a new report.

Spam about pharmaceutical drugs can generate more than $4,000 per day in sales, according to a new report.

In a study titled "The Partnerka — what is it, and why should you care?," Sophos security researcher Dmitry Samosseiko analyzed the growth and operation of the "partnerka," or Russian affiliate partner networks, which are behind much of the pharmaceutical spam in Canada.

(ZDNet's own Ryan Naraine wrote about the same study today with different news: "Malware affiliate bounty: Infect a Mac, earn 43 cents")

Using sales logs, Samosseiko confirmed a long-known fact: online pharmaceuticals are quite lucrative. In fact, the largest affiliate network -- named GlavMed -- has a sister company, SpamIt, thought to be responsible for the Storm, Waledec, and Con?cker botnets.

[Zero Day: Inside an affiliate spam program for pharmaceuticals]

GlavMed claims to be anti-spam, but Samosseiko writes that he discovered a wide-open PHP back-end to GlavMed containing evidence that SpamIt rakes in the real dough for the company.

Ars Technica reports:

This involves e-commerce software for spammers to launch their own GlavMed copies or to simply set up domains that redirect to GlavMed. Additionally, some of the documents Samosseiko discovered were sales records, giving a glimpse into the purchasing behavior of GlavMed's targets.

According to the sales records from GlavMed, there were apparently more than 20 purchases per day per spam campaign, with GlavMed claiming a 40 percent commission on each sale. With an average purchase of around $200, that adds up to over $4,000 total per day per campaign (or $1,600 for GlavMed). As you can imagine, that total easily multiplies if more than one spam blast is run per day thanks to different affiliates, and it continues to skyrocket when we consider how many different online pharmacies exist that benefit from spam, including Stimul-cash.com, Rx-partners, Rxcash.biz, Evapharmacy, Rx-Signup.com and DrugRevenueget.

Clearly, even with the classic spam business model of "a lucrative, unsuspecting few," big returns are possible.