Tag Archives: Antispam

FTC Kicks Off Operation Spam Zombies

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 35 government partners from more than 20 countries are targeting illegal spammers who take remote control of unwitting users’ computers to serve as spam transmission zombies. By hijacking home and business computers, spam can be routed through them, thereby hiding the true source of the spam and making the enforcement of antispam laws more difficult.

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Lycos Antispam Screensaver Debuts

Make Love Not Spam, regardless of it’s poorly-punctuated name, is an antispam effort lead by Lycos Europe. Users who download the screensaver allow their unused processor time to go toward flooding the websites advertised in spam e-mail. Sounds good, but there are two catches, and they are both significant. First, what is flooding?

Flooding is a long-standing technique of crackers, those cyberterrorists that seek to shut down a selected website or Internet service provider by sending millions of requests for webpages in a short period of time, and then keeping up the attack. Websites are designed to handle a specific and anticipated level of requests, and every website can be effectively brought offline, if the frequency of requests is sufficiently high.

Lycos Europe will maintain a database of spammers and this list will be fed to Make Love Not Spam screensaver users. By maintaining a central repository of spammers’ websites, it’s possible to easily and quickly target the most egregious spammers.

Dave’s Comments
There are two catches to this program. One, it’s possible to inadvertently associate an innocent website as a home to spammers, and this can easily be done by a cyberterrorists sending false artificial spam with the intention of misdirecting Lycos Europe’s staff into including the named site in the antispam database.

The second catch is that this program puts the cost of chasing down spammers onto the backs of users, Internet Service Providers (ISP), and the telecommunications industry. Flooding costs money to ISPs and telcos because is requires substantial bandwidth.

As much as I rail against spamming, this flooding program isn’t the way to stop it. Rather than downloading this screensaver, stop buying from spammers and strongly encourage your friends and family to stop buying from them, too. Poison spammers at the trough, and don’t pass the cost onto the innocent.

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Make Love Not Spam

California Wins Legal Case Against Spammers

Two LA spammers were ordered to pay $2 million and received various business restrictions in Santa Clara County Superior Court, this past Friday. This is the largest judgment won by government prosecutors against senders of unsolicited e-mail. The spammers are also the object of a Federal Trade Commission suit; however, both legal cases are civil suits, so there’s not much chance that the spammers will see the inside of a jail cell anytime soon.

Since 1999, almost three-quarters of states have passed anti-spam laws, but prosecutors have brought only a handful of lawsuits; success in the legal system often requires integrating case law (past judgments), and until more criminal suits are won this catch-22 will continue. Rather than pursue criminal penalties, ISPs and frustrated individuals have been using the courts by filing suit using various laws such as consumer fraud and trespass.

Dave’s Opinion
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved an anti-spam bill this past Wednesday: the first federal legislation to tackle spam. The Sentate bill requires bulk e-mailers to indicate a valid return address, disclose that the content is advertising, and give consumers valid and working opt-out mechanisms. In addition, the bill bans the use of addresses obtained from automated mechanisms, such as web-crawling and e-mail harvesting.

Senate bill S.877, CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, also directs the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to come up with a plan for a do-not-spam registry, similar to the do-not-call telemarketing registry.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering competing anti-spam legislation, and may have a more difficult time reaching agreement; however, I’m holding out hope for a valid and reliable do-not-spam registry by 2005.

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S.877 CAN-SPAM Act of 2003