The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has started a system to monitor mass, virus-laden spam and warn people on Twitter to not open the emails it detects, it announced on Nov. 7.
The MPD says this system is the first of its kind to be used by any police department in the nation.
According to the MPD, attackers infect computers with a virus that allows remote control, creating a "botnet" of infected computers they can use to simultaneously send large amounts of junk email. Sending the emails through the botnet makes it more difficult to track where they originally came from.
The MPD intentionally infected a computer with the remote control virus and used it to infiltrate one of the many botnets that exist. They succeeded in instantly uncovering the details of a spam email containing a virus intended to make recipients send money, although the MPD hasn't been able to track down the sender. The botnet they infiltrated is thought to consist of over 1.5 million infected computers around the world, sending over 18 billion spam emails a day.
The MPD is continuing its observation of this botnet with the cooperation of the Japan Cybercrime Control Center. It will put the contents of emails it detects up in real time on its crime prevention Twitter account at @MPD_yokushi and its PR department's Twitter account at @MPD_koho (in Japanese).