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Monday, June 04, 2007

 

Spam Kings and Those Who Keep Them in Business

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News about arrest of Robert A. Soloway caused quite a few headlines in the past week. "Soloway, 27, used his empire of hijacked "zombie" computers to send tens of millions of unsolicited e-mail messages over the past four years, prosecutors allege. Described as a spammer since he was a teenager, he allegedly covered his digital tracks using Chinese servers, fabricated Web sites and the purloined identities of hundreds of Internet users whose names and e-mail addresses were slapped on the bulk mailings. He opened and closed bank accounts faster than creditors could track them, prosecutors said." - The Washington Post

Soloway and others like him certainly deserve to be punished. But it would be naive to think that our computers would be spam-free after he is put behind bars. Spam is here to stay not only because it provides a source of livelihood to unscrupulous people but also because there are millions of computer users who, for some reason, open spam. Call it an irresistible impulse -- the hope of getting something for nothing or for a pittance. The baits range from winning lottery tickets in UK; unclaimed million dollar bank accounts waiting for you in Nigeria; cheap drugs without prescription for erectile dysfunction, to amorous females pining for your company. We read about victims of spam being mostly the lonely, elderly people who are not savvy about the Internet. Yes, there are those but there are many others. If most of the victims were ignorant or senile retirees the spammers would have gone out of business a long time ago. The number of such victims is not large enough to sustain the multi-million dollar business in which spammers are engaged. And it is a global scourge.

Before Alan J. Soloway there were other "spam kings". Sanford Wallace thrived in spamming back in the 90's. In 2005, Scott Richter settled a $7 million law suit by Microsoft. Then there was the case of Alan M. Ralsky (I"m not a spammer," Ralsky said. "I'm a commercial e-mailer.") of West Bloomfield, Michigan. Before long a new kid will appear to claim Soloway's mantle.

Now, go open the message from Violet M. Box (I'm waiting for you) or from SCC (Our company has announced additional openings for new employees). Good luck.

"There is a sucker born every minute"
---Joseph Bessimer or David Hannum


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