Posted by: David Harley | August 1, 2012

A Deadly 419

I was more than a little amused at a 419 message of the “I’ve been hired to assassinate you” sub-category to which my ESET Ireland colleague Urban Schrott drew my attention, so I wrote it up in an article for SC Magazine’s Cybercrime Corner: 419, or mere horseplay?

Except that for its own inscrutable reasons, SC Magazine didn’t include most of the links, which some (especially those less ancient than myself)  may find slightly confusing: so here’s a little explanatory text.

  • James Bond/SMERSH: if your acquaintanceship with James Bond is limited to the movies, you may be unaware that a fictionalized version of SMERSH (a real Russian counter-intelligence agency that was wound up in 1946) plays a significant part in the very early novels.  Oddly enough, a lot of commentary on this 419 misses the fact that SMERSH and SPECTRE (a purely fictional criminal organization) are by no means the same thing, though there seems to be a cetain amount of traffic from one to the other in terms of personnel. A bit like the AV industry…
  • The Beatles (and of course, Henry the Horse dances the waltz): I’m assuming the naming of the horse in the 419 message may have been influenced by ‘Being for the benefit of Mr Kite’, from the Sergeant Pepper album.
  • The Russian Empress Catherine the Great was said (quite untruthfully) have died as a result of a somewhat over-intimate relationship with a horse.
  • (La Femme) Nikita: a film and subsequent TV series about an assassin.
  • The somewhat Saintly Toodle Pip!: if your knowledge of The Saint is restricted to one or more TV series or maybe a movie or two, you may not be aware of the period charm of the earlier books, which were very much of their time – the very long series began in the 1920s. Of course, while Simon Templar may have inclined sometime to the amoral, assassination wasn’t really his thing.
  • I don’t suppose many people are unaware of Bertie Wooster, whether through TV or Wodehouse’s books.
  • Letitia Teaspoon is,  admittedly, a somewhat more obscure creation. She got a mention by virtue of a similarity of the name Dai Teatime. And is even now giggling girlishly in the next office.
  • The scam-baiter forum mentioned in the article is this one.
  • The reference to Spike and Buffy is, of course, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Conan the Barbarian is no doubt well known, if only as a pseudonym for a former governor of California, and Doc Ock will be known to anyone with the faintest interest in Spiderman.
  • I’d never heard of Kraken D’Waggin, but I figured a Google search for the scammer’s name was going to turn up some kind of pop-culture reference, and I wasn’t disappointed.

And I’m afraid that if you want to know what all this has to do with 419s, you’re going to need to read the SC Magazine article. And no, I don’t intend to add glossaries and appendices to all my future blogs. It’s just security, not rocket science. Or even The Wasteland.

ESET Senior Research Fellow


  1. spike dwaggin (dragon) is the little dragon from my little pony, friendship is magic
    dai teatime is equally funny: if the letters of the word dai are converted to numbers, it forms 419. and Mr. Teatime (spelled teh ah ti meh) is the assassin from Terry Pratchetts diskworld-book Hogfather.

    • Hah! Thanks, Robert. Very amusing. 🙂

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