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Spam The Almighty Buck

FTC Recommends Bounty on Spammers 371

joke-boy writes "AP reports that as part of the CANSPAM legislation, the FTC has issued a report recommending placing taxpayer-funded 6-figure bounties on spammers, much like the bounties placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted."
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FTC Recommends Bounty on Spammers

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  • by christopherfinke ( 608750 ) <chris@efinke.com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:24PM (#10273526) Homepage Journal
    What would it take to get someone to turn in one of those spammers who send millions of unwanted e-mails? At least $100,000, the Federal Trade Commission figures.
    Really? If I knew someone who was spamming, I'd turn them in for free. Any cash would just be a bonus.
  • Six Figures? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by josh3736 ( 745265 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:24PM (#10273527) Homepage
    I can understand six figure rewards for those on the ten most wanted list, but for spammers?

    Surely there are things that money could be better spent on. Like say, the implementation of a new email protocol. Or (gasp!) things like Social Security or education.

  • Re:Six Figures? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:27PM (#10273543) Homepage Journal
    Well the question becomes, how much is spam costing us, and will knocking out these spammers actually solve the problem long enough to be worth the money, or will new ones just crop up to fill the void? This should be obvious but for some reason I feel a need to share anyway.
  • Random Thoughts (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:27PM (#10273552)
    Can A Bounty System Cure Spam?

    Unlikely. But, if the law actually get's off it's ass and actually hands out fines, spammers might be more inclined to stick the equivalent of "this is spam" (the opt-out message, etc.), which could make filtering more effective.

    Perhaps we should be fining the ISPs who happily let spam-servers loose on their network?

    "It would promote vigilantism on the Net and it probably would not catch any bad guys," said Louis Mastria, spokesman for the Direct Mail Association

    There are plenty of technically-skilled knowledgable people out there who might otherwise not have bothered, but who could probably track a few people down.

    'the FCC has so much information on their identities that to get anymore would be useless.'

    We don't care whether they're known or not. We just want to bankrupt them and get the money we have lost* due to spam.

    * Most end-users don't lose money, but the amount of stress and anger caused to me by spam has probably shortened my lifespan, and can you put a price on that? --
  • Re:Six Figures? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:28PM (#10273560) Homepage Journal
    maybe they're trying to save money in the seven figures from goverment buro's and education institutions by decreasing amounts of spam.

    (yeah it's kinda high especially with the quite easy frameup process compared to most other crime)
  • by bizpile ( 758055 ) * on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:30PM (#10273567) Homepage
    Really? If I knew someone who was spamming, I'd turn them in for free. Any cash would just be a bonus.

    You make a good point. It's like when they double the bounty on Osama. Like people in Pakistan/Afganistan are sitting around saying, "You know, I'd turn him in for $50 million, but $25 million just doen't speak to me."

    Actually, I'd turn in a spammer just to get a couple of free punches ;).
  • Re:Six Figures? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by savagedome ( 742194 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:33PM (#10273592)
    Top ten most wanted deserve 7 and 8 figures.

    But seriously, screw these scum of the earth bastards. Remember those days when web was a nice place and everybody you knew had a cutesy little homepage and you would leave cute little message in their guest books and such with your name and email and such. DAMN I WANT THAT BACK. That was a nicer web instead of trying to take every bit of care not to leak your email EVEN ONCE. Coming up with NOSPAM crap in your email addresses while posting them somewhere in the hope that some bastard spammer's spider won't catch that. Putting all those funky signs and punctuation and ascii characters to fool those spiders. Using spam filters, white lists, black lists, bayseian etc. etc. Telling everybody not to send, forward anything and never to use your email except for personal reasons.

    And then your girlfriend sends you that cute little card to your email account from that cutesy flowery website that is an email harvester.

  • Won't do much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dorsai42 ( 738671 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:34PM (#10273598)
    When there's a bounty on the advertisers who use the spammers, then we'll see a reduction in spam
  • Re:Six Figures? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by josh3736 ( 745265 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:35PM (#10273603) Homepage
    I'd say one could compare spam to P2P music downloading.

    When Napster became big, the RIAA shut it down. But then 3 more P2P apps popped up to fill that void. Then the RIAA tried to shut them down. Rinse and repeat, there's now 64 different [zeropaid.com] filesharing apps just for Windows.

    Now look at spam. Every time the FTC or whatever government agency shuts down a spammer, how many more will pop up to fill the void?

    Free music or free money. There's a risk with both -- getting sued by the RIAA or having the Federal government on your ass.

    What we really need to do is figgure out how to make it so that spam isn't profitable. Ever.

  • Re:Six Figures? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:36PM (#10273609)
    Like all red-blooded Americans, I'm all about someone doing something about that there (your problem here). My burning desire for change, however, stops just shy of my wallet. Aren't there any benevolent millionaires out there who will front the cash, rather than have the taxpayers fund it?
  • Re:Allow me to say (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drawkcab ( 550036 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:37PM (#10273617)
    A bounty doesn't really make sense the way that spammers are currently prosecuted. Most spammers just get a slap on the wrist. Until spammers actually start getting serious hard time or huge civil penalties, then the value of the bounty would be greater than the cost to most spammers. This would make it beneficial for a small time spammer to partake in their own bounty.

    If bounties given out were a percentage of the fines actually collected from spammers (which ideally should be really painful for big spammers), rather than some fixed range, then a bounty system would make sense. And spammers who manage to launder their profits so the fines don't stick need to get prison time.
  • Tax funded? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <.moc.cam. .ta. .rcj.> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:38PM (#10273624) Journal
    Sorry, I have a problem with that. We can easily raise millions in voluntary contributions for a Ralsky Kneecapping Fund.

  • by zogger ( 617870 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:49PM (#10273690) Homepage Journal
    ....confiscation and public destruction of zombie computers. Then just *perhaps* enough people would bingo to what they are running and how they are running stuff on their computers to treat them with a little more intelligence, and they in turn might go seek out those who supplied them with inadequate products that are sold with no warranties, the vendors and software makers who ship these easily zombified boxes.

    It's way past time products that come brand new pre-borked got recalled and the vendors ordered to "not do that".

    We as consumers and the government wouldn't put up with "acme doors" that failed to swing open and closed, failed to lock adequately, and anyone could open with a gentle shove when it was allegedly latched, but with computers connected to the internet they can ship totally insecure crap and profit from it to the tune of hundreds of billions with little recourse for the consumer when they get owned or the dang thing fails to function as advertised.

    And really, the thought of a legion of whizzed off grandmothers who had their zombie computers confiscated descending on a computer and software marketing weasel convention and laying waste with brooms is rather a nice image.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:50PM (#10273698)
    If having to occasionally delete a junk message that thunderbird missses can save taxpayers those six figures, then I think I can put up with what good filtering has made into a trivial annoyance.
  • Re:Random Thoughts (Score:1, Insightful)

    by essence ( 812715 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:51PM (#10273702) Homepage Journal
    Can A Bounty System Cure Spam?


    I would say definitely not. Has heavy prison sentences, death penalty, stopped murder? No.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:52PM (#10273708)
    Make the spammers pay out the bounty. There's absolutely no reason to make taxpayers (you know, citizens) suffer and go further in debt (via the nation) for the crimes to humanity that spammers have perpetrated.

    RTFA. Not enough money is recovered from spammers, even the few that are prosecuted. There is a small number of big spammers, who are smart enough to keep their money safe from seizure, and a lot who live in trailer parks. The benefit to society as a whole is worth the cost if it deters.

  • Re:Won't do much (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thomasdelbert ( 44463 ) <thomasdelbert@yahoo.com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:52PM (#10273711)
    Would be a nice way to catch one - pose as an advertiser. Now spammers don't know who to trust.

    - Thomas;
  • by bigberk ( 547360 ) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:02PM (#10273781)
    Let's review the facts:
    1. Spammers use stolen resources (hijacked zombie computers, DSL/cable connections) in order to further their business.
    2. Spammers do not seek consent before bombarding email systems with their marketing information.
    3. Spammers generally disrespect requests for them to stop sending unsolicited email, and in fact often send more mail after such requests (selling 'confirmed' addresses to colleagues)
    4. Spammers deliberately conceal their location of 'business', mislead consumers in their 'marketing campaigns' and forge their identities.
    It's good to see these people increasingly treated as what they really are, criminals that have been harming society and getting away with it because our current laws are too slow to catch up. What they're doing is not only annoying, but harmful to innocent peoples' systems.
  • by KarmaOverDogma ( 681451 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:03PM (#10273788) Homepage Journal
    I agree.

    Further, I am very curious as to how many bounty hunters will have will and/or the ability to get foriegn spammers to US Courts.

    This, of course, speaks nothing of the spammers who are already here.

    Spammers being actively hunted in the post Soviet Bloc countries, China, Nigeria, etc would be a very interesting thing to see if it *ever* happened, which I sincerely doubt.

    The war on spam reminds me of the war on drugs.

    And, IIRC, the war on drugs has yet to be won.

    Donald Rumsfeld, a man I am not very fond of, did correctly point out in my opinion that the war on drugs is a demand problem.

    So is Spam.

    As long as spam is profitable, it *will* continue.

    This will mainly serve to make the FTC look good while doing little (VERY little) to solve the problem.

    Our tax dollars at waste - again.

  • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:10PM (#10273831)
    Why make the taxpayers pay for cleaning up the internet of spam?

    The same reason we use taxpayer dollars to clean up litter thrown into the streets by assholes. Someone has to clean up the shit. Bitching about "fairness" doesn't magically make trash disappear.

    Do you also believe that taxpayer funding of prisons is unfair? Taxpayer funding of police is unfair? Taxpayer funding of the court systems is unfair? After all, why should we pay to have our own laws enforced?

    Make the spammers pay out the bounty.

    This is deluded. A $100,000 judgement against a spammer is all well and good, but if that person doesn't possess $100,000, you're up shit's creek. Are you aware of the absolute nightmare it is to actually collect on a court judgement, even for small amounts? Just because the judge says it doesn't make it so.

    There's absolutely no reason to make taxpayers (you know, citizens) suffer and go further in debt

    Uh.. How the hell does it incur debt? The money doesn't vanish into thin air. It is given to the bounty hunter, who will presumably spend that money and pump it right back into the economy again. Every time money moves, the government gets a cut. After a short while, it's all back in the system again.

    There are other reasons why the bounty idea sucks, but it isn't because it's "not fair."

  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:25PM (#10273906)
    What's to keep spammers from turning in other spammers? Then the spammers get MORE money.... OUR money!
  • by Veridium ( 752431 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:28PM (#10273915) Homepage
    Now picture a spammer having to deal with him. Perhaps the FTC is going too far?
  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:28PM (#10273917)
    I turn in a dozen clearly fraudulent spams a month, which are blithely ignored by law enforcement. The problem is not "catching". The law enforcement agencies can easily, if they wish, get subpoenas to track the records or follow a canceled check or credit card to get the worst of the spammers.

    The problem is that they can't be bothered unless it involves hundreds of thousands of dollars of blatant wire fraud, and even then they're quite incompetent at following the evidence or even prosecuting for the right crime.
  • outsourcing risk (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:30PM (#10273923) Homepage Journal
    The reason this won't work is that it, like so many other laws, are designed to punish scapegoats(how apropos) and not the criminals. The criminals outsource risk. They use plausible deniability and showcased due diligence to avoid responsibility. They go in front of the courts and congress and say things like 'I don't recall' and 'I did not know' and 'No one told me', and seldom are the laws applied in such a way that it is required that these executive be held responsible for the mismanagement and malfeasance that those answers so clearly imply.

    The fact is that major corporations, like the illegal drug dealers, outsource the most dangerous of their illegal activities to small time criminals. The discounts these small time criminals provide are the smallest part of the benefit. The real benefit comes from a judicial system that allows Wal*Mart to hire illegal aliens at wages that do no meet the federal standards, but not be responsible for the legal consequences. This shifting of responsibility away from corporation appears to the primary purpose of the modern executive. And therefore the livelihood of the million dollar executive depends on the fiction that he or she is not responsible for anything separated by the smallest sliver of paper. Even if it requires that the we assume the executive is the stupidest person in the planet, pride in ones job and oneself has become so irrelevant that stupidity is the preferable interpretation.

    This means that the spammers we are likely to catch will be replaced tomorrow, created by the corporate dual obsession with criminal behavior and outsourcing risk. They at the same time need to protect themselves from lawsuits, but also need to sell prescription drugs to kids. There is always another person who wants to earn a buck, and the pushers are always willing to set up another patsy to take the fall.

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:33PM (#10273940)
    IT's testimony to bring charges and convict. I mean spamhaus can say someone is a spammer, that isn't enough to get a subpoena much less a conviction.

    What they want is someone who has direct knowledge of the spammer's illegal activities to come forward and testify. If I know Alan Rasky's been spamming because I've heard about it from an ISP, no good. If I know he's been spamming because I've been to his house, heard him talk about it, and seen the servers, that's what they want.

    Convicting someone is different from knowing they are doing something. The OCCB division of a police force knows about basically every mobster in a city. They even generally know what they do. However knowing they are a hitman is real different from having evidence that hold up in court they are. If Joe Blow says "hey that guy's a well knwon hitman" they say "Tell us something we don't know". If Joe Blow says "I saw that guy kill someone" they break out the recorder and take a statement.
  • Re:Six Figures? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PatientZero ( 25929 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:34PM (#10273947)
    Suddenly sending out a million spams is costing you big time.

    And just as suddenly running a developer mailing list is no longer possible without outside funding. *Poof!*

  • by craXORjack ( 726120 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:35PM (#10273952)
    The report said any reward should come from taxpayer funds because collection of civil penalties from spammers will not be enough to finance the system

    They should pay for it from the anti-terrorism funds that have already been allocated. After all, what is the largest flow of unregulated information into the US? Spam of course. They already talked about looking for steganography in pornography but sending secret messages to unidentifiable recipients using spam would be childsplay. Millions would receive the spams so the terror cell members couldn't be identified and the sender is virtually untraceable because of using rooted zombies. And due to the infinite variety of spam, what G-man could determine which spams even contain messages?

  • show me the money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:42PM (#10273988)
    Sounds like a nice supplement to my income I only need to bust one a year to make a really nice living. Bring it on I am more than ready!
  • by lightspawn ( 155347 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:46PM (#10274010) Homepage
    How about just making the idiots who let their computers get infected sit in stockade for a few days?

    What a great idea! How wonderful! How utterly sensible! We all know nobody has a right to operate a computer unless they first verify all code running on it to be secure. It's not the vendor's fault. Just like people who die in airline crashes deserve it because they did not verify the plane would land safely.

    "You know less about computers than I do, so you're stupid and don't deserve to use one" is a stupid, childish attitude, and it has to go. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes people hate geeks.

  • by evilmrhenry ( 542138 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @11:54PM (#10274032)
    While you may turn in any spammers you know about, the purpose of a bounty is to reward those that take a bit of time to actually track one down.

    For example, a 6 figure bounty would be a good reward, even if it took a few months of full-time work to find the spammer.
  • by humankind ( 704050 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @12:52AM (#10274292) Journal
    It's all about enforcement.

    It's a sad day when one branch of the government offers a bounty to get another branch of the government off their asses to enforce laws that have been on the books for decades.

    Spammers break laws. Felony laws. 95% of all spammers break serious laws that could have them put in prison.

    We don't need people to report spammers. All someone has to do is put an unpatched windows pc on the net for a few hours and they'll be a zombie pc and start collecting info and able to identify the spammers. In a day you can have a hundred charges of computer tampering.

    Think about this come election time. We have a government that has been neutered by big business that has little concern for anything which doesn't directly affect big, multinational corporations that contribute to their campaign coffers. The apathy of the public is responsible for allowing these losers in office.
  • by bluewee ( 677282 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @01:15AM (#10274361)
    How does this fight SPAM from other countries? Take taxatation, if you store your money on an offshore account where their LAWS are different, it does not get taxed, how does spam all of a sudden get put into a different realm?

    How about something that works: Fight SPAM [abuse.net]

  • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @01:54AM (#10274465)
    Um, actually I couldn't help but notice that you pay the police to do this kind of thing.

    So is it unfair to make the taxpayers pay to clean up the streets of common thugs and fraudsters? Spamhaus seems to think that the majority of our spam comes from about 200 spammers. Put a dozen of them in prison, and the rest will start to think harder about what they do and whether or not they can continue to operate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 17, 2004 @03:19AM (#10274726)
    Anyway, if molecular manufacturing became a safe, viable, reality, the food/clothing/shelter problem of society at large will be taken care of without need for money, the key to all of capitalism's strengths and weaknesses.
    Nope, replicators will be banned. Possession of an unlicensed replicator will be punishable by prison, automatically extended to life[*] if the replicator is capable of self-reproduction. Too many vested interests get all their status and power from stuff being scarce.

    [*] Defined as the maximum lifespan ever attained by a human being plus twenty years

  • by robogun ( 466062 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @04:11AM (#10274874)
    I know Earthlinks $16 million judgment against Howard Carmack was just a drop in the bucket for a spammer, but the 3.5 to 7 years [itworld.com] the fed got him for should get the attention of the other ass pounders.
  • by tovarish ( 746937 ) on Friday September 17, 2004 @09:00AM (#10275602)
    most of the world's spam originates from the usa, like the world drug suppy (if you include tobacco)
  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['kis' in gap]> on Friday September 17, 2004 @11:58AM (#10277127)
    You could make it illegal to advertise using spammers, but that makes it easy to get framed: if I don't like your company, I can send out a billion spams advertising your products, and you get hit with a fine.

System checkpoint complete.