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Censorship Spam The Internet

Endangered Countries On The Internet 475

Posted by timothy
from the externalities dept.
Vande writes "Balkanalysis.com has an article about Macedonia being driven towards internet extinction as a result of some blacklists, which also include Bulgaria and Romania. Namely, this poorly written quote from the 'export bureau' (non-gov org) states the reason for being blacklisted: 'Pay close attention to shipping or contact addresses located in countries with a high reported incidence of online fraud and many e-commerce web sites have found a high incidents of on-line fraud as well, such as Africa, Nigeria, Macedonia, Colombia, etc..' They must have lost the stats on fraud from Russia, Israel and the USA itself, because Macedonia's negligible internet population cannot possibly account for that much trouble. Cutting off an entire country only hurts the legitimate users. And I thought all this time I was surfing the 'World Wide' Web :/"
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Endangered Countries On The Internet

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  • Foreign ISPs (Score:4, Informative)

    by drewbradford (458480) <drew@drewbradford.com> on Sunday July 04, 2004 @02:29AM (#9604495) Homepage
    Residents of those contries have the option of using foreign ISPs, or even anonymous proxies, to bypass the blacklists.

    neworder.box.sk has some links to good anonymous proxies.
  • Eastern Europe too.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dozix007 (690662) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @02:30AM (#9604497)
    Easter Europe has fallen victim to e-commerce site bias. Many electronic file transfer agencies assume just to steer clear of E. Europe rather than dealing with fruad. This brings up the obvious question of better varification. Just think how much more these sites could make in commison if they invested a little in verification.
  • Africa? (Score:2, Informative)

    by spawk (772782) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @02:31AM (#9604502)
    i thought it was a continent
  • Re:Out of curiosity (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2004 @02:34AM (#9604518)
    1 in 30 according to ECCS international 2003 report.
  • by pyrrhonist (701154) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @03:00AM (#9604578)
    Clickable link for above [ocalasmostwanted.com]
  • by jessemckinney (398160) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @03:02AM (#9604584)
    Africa is not a country. It is a continent.

    such as Africa, Nigeria, Macedonia, Colombia, etc..
  • I know that blacklists can be heavy handed, but Macedonia's reputation does preceed it.

    US Embasy Brief for Travelers [state.gov] To whit: Macedonia has a cash-based economy. The local currency is the denar. Few establishments accept dollars, credit cards or travelers' checks. Travelers are advised to avoid using credit cards due to numerous instances of credit card fraud.

    I realize the State Department may be parroting back the same biases as banks and such.

    A quick search for "+macedonia +fraud +crime" and "+macedonia +online +fraud" has it listed on almost every bank, shipping, and e-commerce site as a country to suspect. On most of the lists, it's third after Nigeria and Columbia.

  • by +apis22 (776909) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @03:13AM (#9604617)
    Should an artificial state has its own internet identifier (for example .fyrom) in the first place? First of all, what you call "Macedonia" has a formal name which is Former Yugoslavic Republic of Macedonia. IMO "Macedonia" is the direct result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. For many decades after WW2 the communist regime of Yugoslavia used the term "Macedonia" to define the southern part of Yugoslavia. Now according to macedonia.org ""Macedonians" make up 66% of "Macedonia's" population of 2 million, Albanians 23%, and Turks, Vlach, and Serbs, the rest (1994 census)" In the past 50 years communism was the ideology that hold together the people of Yugoslavia and its constituents republics like "Macedonia". After the breakup of Yugoslavia their politicians "sold" this story of "Macedonia" to the Albanians, Turks, Vlachs and Serbs i.e. that they are true descendants of Macedonians. Please... The true Macedonians were, are and will be Greeks residents of northern Greece. Aristotle the philosopher was Greek and lived in Macedonia, Greece. Philip the father of Alexander the Great was Greek and was king of Macedonia, Greece. Alexander was king of Macedonia, Greece and he became emperor of the area from Asia Minor up to the borders of present day India. (BTW he is the only conqueror still remembered by the population of Middle East as a liberator and just sovereign) As for the internet access of the Former Yugoslavic (communist) Republic of Macedonia... Well their government should start by diminishing internet fraud and curbing the illegal activities in general in their state.
  • Re:Foreign ISPs (Score:5, Informative)

    by arivanov (12034) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @03:48AM (#9604722) Homepage
    You are misunderstanding the meaning of the blacklist. It is not a blacklist on access. It is a blacklist on e-commerce. 95% of all web stores and mail order shops in EC and US refuse to ship to these countries.

    They do not do it out of malice. They do it because they were at one point refused insurance on their card transactions for purchases from these countries. This was done because these countries at the time did not have a banking clearance system which could be used for VISA transactions. In fact most banks were not even members of SWIFT so clearing money was taking 24+ days to travel through a correspondent bank somewhere else in the world after getting government permission for the transfer. So overall the blacklist was fully justified at the time.

    While the some countries now have SWIFT and VISA and are OK to ship (Bulgaria), many web stores are yet to amend their policies. Considering the marginal amount of purchases from the countries in question I would say that it is nothing to shout about. Move along.
  • by Ivan Todoroski (132826) <grnch@gmx.net> on Sunday July 04, 2004 @03:59AM (#9604755)
    The issue came to the public attention about 6-7 years ago (I think), when a bunch of teenagers "discovered" IRC CC trading channels, and got a hold of some stolen credit cards (and once you have a few, you can trade them with people on those channels to get more). They immediately shared them with their friends and started ordering all kinds of stuff online like CDs, watches, perfumes, eyeglasses, and what not, for them, their girlfriends, relatives, etc.

    Well, the customs officials noticed the unusual surge in that kind of merchandise coming from a small number of big online retailers, and stemmed the flow immediately.

    They would just keep the stuff at customs terminals, and notify the recipients that they should come pick it up. When a kid showed up, they simply asked for proof of order, and if it was ordered via credit card, they asked to see the actual credit card.

    If they failed to produce it, the police was notified (the idiots were ordering stuff to their home addresses), and some of the bigger offenders were brought in for interrogation etc. Nobody really got anything more than a slap on the wrist, as most of them were just kids, but it sure ended the massive ordering.

    I even remember even a few scary looking guys in suits with laptops at the university where I was studying then, they were going over the computer terminals and servers to extract logs of suspicious activity as some of the orders were coming from there. I later found out they were from the illegal trade department, which means somebody in the police took this very seriously.

    In any case, I was surprised at how quickly this was stopped and the responsible people identified, I didn't think the customs and police had any kind of tech savy people among them. :)

    On a related note, at about the same time software piracy was thriving in Macedonia, you could get a truck load of latest expensive software for a couple of dollars per CD.

    It was really bad, I even distinctly remember I was playing the final retail version of Quake 2 almost a whole WEEK before it was scheduled to appear in US stores :)

    Anyway, after some more incidents and complaints by foreign companies, the government really cracked down on this kind of thing a few years ago, and the legislation was slowly brought up to speed to include laws for online commerce, credit card fraud, etc.

    Things are very much under control now, but hey, bad reputation (admittedly well deserved) tends to follow you for a long time...
  • Re:Out of curiosity (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2004 @04:28AM (#9604821)
    Ranked 12th worst in the world for card fraud - worst in "developed" world.
  • by Ivan Todoroski (132826) <grnch@gmx.net> on Sunday July 04, 2004 @04:34AM (#9604832)
    It's my (slashdotted) country, you insensitive clod! :)

    Joking aside, you're not being insensitive at all, in fact you're quite right. My country's past reputation in this regard is anything but stellar. These days, however, things are incomparably better (new legislation, police much more alert to these types of crimes, etc.)

    I expect that as things get better and retailer's confidence rises, the name Macedonia will slowly disappear from those blacklists.

    Many online retailers don't accept credit cards from Macedonia for instance, instead requiring payment by direct wire transfer to a bank account. It's a real pain in the butt, as international wire transfers can add more than 30$ to the price you have to pay, so you have to group many things together in a single order, from a single shop, in order to not pay too much (shipping costs to here are already high enough).

    This limits the choice of things you can order online, as you can't just order different items from different places, the combined wire transfer fee for each order would be way too much, you have to make sure everything is in big orders from small number of places.

    Other than that, it's no big deal.
  • Re:Foreign ISPs (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2004 @04:54AM (#9604869)
    And as the operator of an ecommerce website I must say that after you get you 10th or 12th Nigerian request for 10k worth of merchandise on a fraudulent credit card w/ no legitimate sales from said country, you tend to just take that country off the list. The possible 1 or 2 sales is not worth the headache.
  • by Horia (602444) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @05:02AM (#9604882) Homepage
    That's not true. Cutting off entire countries is never done to hurt legitimate users, it is done to protect legitimate users. The legitimate users just don't happen to be in the countries that are cut off.

    That is just so insensitive and plain wrong. I am in Romania and I can't sign up for Pay Pal, most of the affiliate programs and can't order from most websites on my credit card because my countruy is blacklisted. A few rotten apples spoil the whole barrel.

    At least they should provide a gradual, not a black & white approach. Blacklists hurt my business and also limit what I can do with my money :-( Punishing someone for someone else's deeds - it's wrong and so frustrating. I just wish those who practice this don't ever get the same treatment.

  • Who uses this? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Torp (199297) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @05:08AM (#9604893)
    I live in Romania and i've been happily buying books from the US with a Mastercard for 5 years. Neither Amazon nor smaller specialized online bookstores seem to mind that I'm in Romania.

    I'm not interested in anything else since I'm not about to pay for international shipping for something i can buy from here anyway. Not to mention that having the warranty across an ocean is rather inconvenient.

    One decent measure of anti fraud protection i've met is stores refusing to ship anywhere except the card holder's address. Isn't that easily verifiable from inside a merchant account? Isn't that enough, instead of blocking?
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @05:37AM (#9604935)
    You might want to learn a bit more about the US system, specifically regarding the Internet. Right now, despite what some of our leaders would like, the government does not run or control the Internet in this country. The Internet is run by a bunch of private corperations, public instutions, and so on. At the top level are big communications companies like AT&T. They sell bandwidth to smaller companies and so on until it reaches the consumer. The government actually buys connections from these providers. They do run their own networks, but for internal communication. When they want on the Internet, they get on it just like private ciizens.

    So, any and all blacklisting is done by companies and private citizens. If I run a mail server and determine that X netblock, which might be a whole country, is an endless source of problems, I ban it. The government does not tell me to do this or not to do this, that's not up to them. Same with an ISP. They may decide to ban netblocks/countries. Of course they do this at the risk of pissing off their subscribers. If they ban something they want to get to, that'll create backlash. They way the benefits against the risks.

    So please, don't get on the nationalist, anti-US kick. The US, as a nation, has NOTHING to do with this. It is companies and individuals excerising their rights in a free society. I have a right to choose who may and may not access my servers. For some servers, any may do so, for others, none but me.

    If you, as a South African ISP, want to blacklist the entire US, that is your right (I understand that you are supposed to be a free country as well). However I won't confuse that with the policy of the Sount African government. Also, don't be supprised if your subscribers leave since, at this point, a majority of the Internet still resided in the US (though that continues to change).

    I do get really tired of people from other countries blaming any view or action taken by a US citizen on the United States as a whole. Just because a minority in the KKK declares people of African descent to be inferior does NOT mean that is the official position of the US. It means that we have a right to free speech here, even if that speech is racist, stupid, and wrong.

    When the US government mandidates bans on other countries, then you come talk to me about US policy. When it's private individuals, blame them, not the US at large.
  • by Freultwah (739055) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @06:12AM (#9604979) Homepage

    Nonono, boyee, it's the other way around.

    The weaker the economy, the more likely are most people to deal in a "stable currency". Coming from the former Soviet Union, I've seen the tendency come and go in my own country as well, when the rouble was going downhill and nobody knew what it was going to cost next morning. At one point, it was even so bad that people who were standing in line for something didn't often know how much the object they were after was going to cost when they got to the counter. So people dealt in US dollars, Deutschmarks, Finnish marks and Swedish crowns. When the economy started climbing uphill, the foreign money was ousted from everyday transactions. So, if Macedonian establishments accept Macedonian money, I can only see an uphill trend there, even if my observation is only based on what currency is universally accepted.

    As for waving pieces of plastic around and expecting everyone to accept those as the be all and end all of payment methods... Well, get real.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @06:24AM (#9605009)
    Non Sequitur. What you talk about has nothing to do with what I was talking about. I am talking about bans on IP ranges, commerece by private entities. You then throw out four terms with no context that in no way relate to what I am talking about.

    Let's please stop with the logical falacies and short, meaningless responses. If you want to debate, debate. My argument was that the US government is not the one doing the banning, private entities are. If you have a counter argument, let's here it, not an irrelivant list of unrelated terms.
  • Re:Israel? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 04, 2004 @07:00AM (#9605112)
    Why is Israel mentioned here at all? What are the fraud stats from Israel?

    Countries with high internet connectivity tend to have higher fraud numbers too for obvious reasons - note that they are not talking about relative fraud occurences. Israel has among the highest internet penetration in the world, together with the US and the Scandinavian countries.
  • I live in Romania (Score:3, Informative)

    by sniperu (585466) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @07:21AM (#9605173) Homepage

    I live in one of those countries that has been a long time favorite on all kinds of blacklists . Whell , to be onest , at first these was justified . I mean , about 6-8 years ago everybody new someone who was in the internet ordering business :) , and I don't think any bank was issueing international credit cards then . That was arround the time when cc generators actually worked .

    But now things changed quite a bit . First there's the minor issue of the local FBI bureu . Cc's are not that easy to obtain know , script kiddies are ceritainly out of the business . And if you're that good , you're probably haveing a well paid job admining something , or getting your visa . Script kiddies are now conning people on ebay , but if you think somebody on the other side of the planet is getting a good deal from you with shipping by AmericanExpress , taxes and all ... you pay for your naivity

    OTOH , this blacklist thing is not bothereing me much . I have my own card , nobody refused it by now (google , hosting companies , domain registars etc.) but i'm not buying anything that needs shipping . Godaddy.com blocked all of it's customers from here (without anounceing them first at least) , but i've asked my registar and they said they will do no such thing (keeping my fingers crossed) .

    The only thing that's really annoing is that paypal is not sending money over here , and WesternUnion's charges are huge , so working on rentacoder.com and such is not really a good deal .

  • by fuzzybunny (112938) on Sunday July 04, 2004 @11:31AM (#9606436) Homepage Journal
    Why is this moderated flamebait?

    The poster has a very good point. There is a reason why 419 scams are named as they are--after a section of Nigeria's penal code. Simply stated, the occurrence of types of wire fraud is higher in some countries than others--while putting together a security incident response team for a client, we found a whole "419 ISP" infrastructure located in Ghana, including several subnets, mail servers on multiple operating systems, and loads of what we assumed were semipublic terminals dedicated to sending out fraudulent crap.

    We gathered through a bit of digging that an Israeli company was at least partially behind the whole deal, but this was by no means an isolated incident.

    I have very very serious problems with the criteria for inclusion in many commercial blacklists--including censorware, antispam and others. However, in many cases, inclusion is justified. If a country sees a high rate of blacklisting, well, do something about it.

    A few years ago, Switzerland had free SMS phone gateways--many UK providers blocked SMS traffic from here, as their subscribers were being mercilessly spammed. The block was justified, and the local telcos took action; now it's no more. Asking others to at least investigate whether there's some good reason behind a blacklist, and if so, eliminating it, is not excessive.

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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