Computer Crime Research Center


Spam again

Date: June 25, 2004
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Timofey Saytarly

US police officers arrested an AOL employee and charged him with conspiracy in a plot to flood AOL subscribers with spam. Federal prosecutors say that Jason Smathers, a software engineer for AOL, stole a list of 92 million emails of their clients and sold it to Sean Dunaway of Las Vegas. According to the complaint, Dunaway sent gambling ads to users and then sold the list to spammers. Dunaway has also been arrested and charged with conspiracy.

If these allegations turn out to be true, these guys are going to be lynched by millions of AOHell users with pitchforks. Imagine having someone to blame for all those “herbal penis enhancement” ads.

This case is an unsettling reminder that your online identity is never really secure. Prosectors say that the subscriber list included customer zip codes and credit card types, although there were no passwords or credit card numbers. AOL fired Smathers yesterday, which doesn‘t surprise me. The company has been on the offensive these days, spamwise. They’ve teamed up with rivals Microsoft, Yahoo, and EarthLink to brainstorm ways to fight spam. Spam accounts for 83% percent of all e-mail transactions these days, and most spam is sent using fake e-mail addresses. All four Internet giants agree that the best solution to the spam problem is a “sender ID” system that identifies and trashes mail with bogus addresses. The companies differ in the ways they’d like to implement this system, but they’ve agreed to test each other’s e-mail authentication technology.

Six of the nation’s largest e-mail providers, including AOL, have also proposed that computers which send out millions of spammed messages a day should be unplugged from the Internet. The companies have proposed a cap on the number of e-mail messages people can send per day.

For right now, the government’s staying out of it. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission rejected a proposed “Do Not spam” registry. The concept was similar to the federal “Do not call” list that blocks telemarketers from harassing homeowners. The problem is, the list would be unenforceable. Spammers could easily sneak around it. And now, they‘d have a list of viable e-mails. The commission wisely decided to leave the problem to individual companies, who are probably better equipped to deal with it than government bureaucrats are.

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