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Microsoft Wins Record Amount from Hotmail Spammer 79

mytrip writes to tell us is reporting that Microsoft has won a record $87,177 against spammer Paul Fox who used a hotmail account to direct users to his pornographic download site. From the article: "But while Microsoft has clearly won, the case highlights a failure in the British legal system to tackle spam. Despite efforts by the Information Commissioner's Office to gain power from the Department of Trade & Industry to deal with spam, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas remains hamstrung."
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Microsoft Wins Record Amount from Hotmail Spammer

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  • Spam! I get jokes! Perhaps the pig icon should be in a blanket though.
    • by Sabaki ( 531686 )
      Or a poke.
    • Blanket? C'mon, you can do better:

      • in a donut shop
      • swinging on a star
      • on a spit
      • sliced, cured and put in a barrel in Ted Stevens' office, along with all the other pork
      • cleared for takeoff now that Microsoft announced [] it wouldn't enforce patents
      • etc...
  • Despite efforts by the Information Commissioner's Office to gain power from the Department of Trade & Industry to deal with spam, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas remains hamstrung.

    Sounds like Information Commissioner Richard Thomas is into the kinky stuff. That's why there's no action on this topic.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )
      I hate it when I get Hamstrung while playing WoW during PvP!
    • The missing line from the summary is:

      "Because Thomas' office can only deal with spam originating in the United Kingdom.."

      They should wave the white flag. I don't see any incentive to pursue prosecutions with this restriction and those penalties.

    • For what it's worth, our Information Commissioner is one of all-too-few good guys holding public office in the UK. He and his department have very consistently acted in the public interest, even when it meant directly opposing government policy over things like ID cards, or telling the government that freedom of information requests could not be dodged on technicalities (as with some MPs' expenses just this week). They also provide genuinely helpful guidance, e.g., on their web site there's a simple interac

  • Okay - so earlier today I posted [] about testing weapons on spammers... and Microsoft... this is creepy.
  • by HatchedEggs ( 1002127 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @06:38PM (#16099994) Homepage Journal
    Sooo basically the Spammer had to pay 1/10th what he earned doing all that spamming? Say it ain't so!

    If they really step it up and go at him perhaps they'll take away his tinker toys.
  • Not nearly enough. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) < .ta. .rcj.> on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @06:44PM (#16100048) Journal
    As long as the penalties for spamming are less than the spammer's seeing in revenues, this shit is just going to keep piling up. I vote for flogging the bastard.

    • But don't most people survive flogging?
    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      Oh yes, flogging as a punishment. That'll work. I can just picture my inbox overflowing with S&M porn with genuine contact details included to "aid" law enforcement. The irony is that would probably make it CAN-SPAM compliant and there would be nothing anyone could do about it an updated "Think-of-the-Children-SPAM" law got passed.
    • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @07:21PM (#16100234) Homepage Journal
      In England, it is a legal requirement that all makes over the age of 12 practice with the longbow. This qualifies you to be a debt collector in cases of spammer bankrupcy.
      • This is partially true, it is actually not a national law anymore, but is down to specific local laws. There are still some parts of England where the law has yet to be repealed, even though it was written in 1363 by King Edward III. Cue the 'Nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide' speak, as if you are in those areas and dont practice longbow on sundays, you indeed have something to hide!
        • Of course, with sufficient longbow practice, a bit of justice against spammers (technically outside the legal system) becomes possible...
        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          If I ever get prosecuted under that law I'll be taking my longbow to York and shooting anybody Scottish I see after it gets dark.

          That's still legal, y'see..

          • by jimicus ( 737525 )
            If I ever get prosecuted under that law I'll be taking my longbow to York and shooting anybody Scottish I see after it gets dark.

            IIRC you have to be a native-born man of York to do that.
    • Whilst flogging would make a great family day out and TV special once a month it doesnt really have the global impact I would want.

      If you choose to read on, be warned I will unveil in the next paragraph a potential global solution to the spam problem, so you may wish to do something similar to all the politicians I have lobbied and put your fingers in your ears and say 'la la la' (or perhaps just cover your eyes for this one)!

      Spam is about making money, remove the ability to make money and the spam goes awa
      • Stick the IRS on them. I bet they don't accurately report all income, and would fare poorly in an audit. That would wipe out their profitability fast.
    • When you think about it... Most fines are pretty much just official bribes - you give them money, they stay quiet. It's just legal instead.
    • Heinlein would agree with this solution...
  • Another Sham Victory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @06:51PM (#16100091) Homepage
    Symbolic: "Microsoft making a world full of online threats safer for Y-O-U!"

    Best case scenario:
    1. the guy/organization/whatever claims bankruptcy and it's pennies on the dollar for MS.
    2. Microsoft charges you more for their spam security software.

    Lately with MS and most mega-corps, it's about maintaining a very high level of fear of non-compliance.

    I'm glad I get paid to work on their product because it requires so much babysitting. Thank dog I don't run it at home anymore.
    • by jbourj ( 954426 )
      So MS is making money from the spammers and the spammed, fantastic!
    • 2. Microsoft charges you more for their spam security software.

      No offence, but if you're thinking of purchasing spam security software from Microsoft, you've got more pressing issues you should be worrying about.

    • by jimicus ( 737525 )
      I'm glad I get paid to work on their product because it requires so much babysitting. Thank dog I don't run it at home anymore.

      Spam aside, it's not just Windows - Microsoft have created an entire culture of "You have one desktop PC and you don't need to think about anyhing more than that". There is still plenty of software today which:
      • Runs on Windows
      • Is aimed at organisations where it's a dead cert you'll want it on many computers.
      • Must be installed by running setup.exe and is not easily scriptable. (ie. th
  • This is going to sundy crazy, but it seems as though Microsoft has recently been using the using the courts for good. First they use the coursts to punish those who have been scamming users with pirated copies of Windows for cash and now they're providing a better anti-spam deterant than the British legal system.

    I know this goes against what many on /. may stand for, but I have to say that I'm surprised and pleased.

    Go Microsoft! The **PAA could learn much from you.
  • Good For Them (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aztracker1 ( 702135 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @07:13PM (#16100194) Homepage
    I really hope they get to collect... What is really needed is a two pronged approach.

    The first step is to eliminate most of the pseudo-anonymity of email... Not necessarily so much as to create the authentication system that Yahoo, or MS seem to be pushing for, even the lighter SPF system would be a good start. Of course the big guys need to work together, most internet email goes to MSN/Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo, with larger ISPs like Earthlink, Qwest, etc. taking up a huge portion of the rest... If even half of the above required either A: SPF, or B: the sending MTA *IS* authenticated, or the MTA in the MX listing for the header's "from" this would do it... Now the responsible parties for email would be at least more trackable, since the spam zombies would be ineffective, or at least less effective (Responsible ISP mail admins flagging accounts with >10 emails an hour for review).

    The second is to allow suits like this to have more teeth... Bankrupt the scum, ceize their assets.. Procecute under whatever applicable laws (most likely fraud).
    • The problem with approach 2 is that Microsoft's suit against the guy was merely for breaking the terms of use for Hotmail. In a sad kind of way, I'm glad they were able to get this much out of him; it's not as if MS lacks lawyers, but that's a lot of money for violation of a checkbox-policy on a free service.

      The solution is to let the government convict spammers for serious damages. However, the most a spammer can presently be fined for in the UK is 5,000 GBP (about $9,350 US). This should, in theory, be
  • Seems like this amount isn't very high. We really need to crack down on spammers and make them pay (literally, although the figurative meaning works well there too). IANAL, so I'd appreciate it if someone who is could give us a quick rundown of why spammers are so hard to prosecute. Or whatever the problem is.

    As a quick aside, would someone please tag this "typo"? That "ut" and the beginning took about .3 seconds to process as "But;" .3 seconds I'll never get back. kthx. ;-)

    • That's because in general, most spammers haven't broken any significant laws in their jurisdiction, or those who have broken laws, have not caused significant enough damage (monetary or otherwise) for a criminal investigation (which must precede a trial) to start. There's bigger fish for the DA to fry.

      Remember that this story isn't about a criminal case. MSFT filed a civil suit to seek relief directly from the courts in monetary terms.
  • Why on earth is it being left to the Information Commissioner to pursue spammers? Does he not have enough on his plate with the British Govt...

    a) ... about to reverse the legal right to privacy [] trying create the world's most intrusive database on citizens [].
    b) ... using taxpayers' resources to frustrate hundreds of thousands of valid requests under the Freedom of Information Act []?

  • I thought hotmail was a spam-hoster? It isn't? Wow, could've fooled me!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rel4x ( 783238 )
      Not intentionally. People still use them as "FROM:" addresses w/ proxies or open relays. Back in the day they were victrims of these bastard ass programs called "Internal Mailers" that utilize thousands and thousands of botted accounts, and send out 250 or so mails each. This guy sounds like he wasnt near that sophisticated. That's why he got caught.
  • by Flwyd ( 607088 )
    He's ham strung to deal with spam? Maybe there was too much pork in the legislation.
  • So someone used bandwidth he was paying for, without using a botnet, to send emails for companies that sponsored him. While I understand the logic in complaining about a nuisance, I am unable to relate to thos individuals who wish the assign some sort of punitive action to this spammer.

    Is it really that hard to just hit delete? Is it a reasonable assumption that spam will be less profitable (and, sooner or later, unprofitable), if people stop opening spam email and purchasing the products advertised?

    These i
    • by dufachi ( 973647 )
      Some people actually pay for the bandwidth they receive. Being inundated with hundreds of spam mails uses said bandwidth. It's more than a nuisance, it's a charge to some people's wallet.

      Perhaps there needs to be a "Do Not Email" list similar to the "Do Not Call" list. The DNC list has held up in court and caused telemarketing companies to be levied rather large fines.

      Spam that you cannot possibly unsubscribe from and/or you did not explicitly sign up for is harassment, plain and simple; which, if I recal
      • The amount of people paying for their bandwidth on a per-kB basis is negligible, and comparable to the amount of people who pay for PO Boxes. Both are receiving something they do not want, and at a cost to themselves. I nevertheless do not excuse liability from the spammer who sends to those individuals.

        The 'Do Not Call' services available are almost universally worthless, and with phreak-spamming and SMS-spamming gaining popularity, they become even worse than not signing up. A 'Do Not Email' list is inher
    • no actual harm is being perpetrated

      Not to sound too 'ButThinkOfTheChildren' but you realize this guy was sending porno ads to minors? I very much doubt most people are okay with that.
      Furthermore, this kind of spam has a number of other dangers:

      • Say you were at work somewhere that monitors your internet access, and you accidentally click the link. Guess what... your machine just requested a highly NSFW site. Even if you don't get in too serious of trouble (there are places where that kind of thing will cos
    • by jimicus ( 737525 )
      Is it really that hard to just hit delete?

      When you receive so many spams that you can barely distinguish the legitimate mail, yes it is.
    • by jcr ( 53032 )
      no actual harm is being perpetrated.

      The hell it isn't! Theft of services worth millions of dollars, money spent on anti-spamming measures, data lost when message queues overflow from being clogged with spam, just to name a few instances. Spammers are thieves, and that's about all there is to it.

  • In the UK, there is almost no penalty for the general act of spamming, despite it being technically illegal. FTA:

    "What should change is there should be a penalty where somebody is identified as sending spam--at the moment, [all we can do] is send a notice telling them to comply with the law. If they continue... they face a maximum fine of 5,000 pounds ($9,353)."

    Microsoft was able to get the (relatively) high amount because, according to the terms of use [] for Hotmail (see section 3, which also mentions the

    • by jrumney ( 197329 )

      they face a maximum fine of 5,000 pounds

      There is no case-law as yet to clarify whether that is £5000 per spam-run sent, or £5000 per spam receivied. If sending a million spam emails can be counted as a million offenses under the law, a significant fine can be given (though the judge is probably not going to land them with the full 5 billion squid).

  • Dear Unknown, I am a spammer convicted of sending unsolicited messages to millions of people and I am ordered by the federal courts to pay every one I sent mail to a sum of 100,000$ each.

    So if you have recieved spam from me, please send me your name, your address, your social security number, your bank account number, your mother's maiden name, the first pet you owned, the first car you owned, the name of your high school, your credit card number, expiry date and the card verification number.


  • Spam works for the sender because, it costs them practically nothing to blast out millions of emails and there are always a few who respond to spam. One way to combat spam is to increase the cost to the spammers. I am not suggesting anything on the send side.

    Just on the recieve side. We should be able to write some bots with some amount of AI to respond to spam. Suddenly the spammer is getting 990 bogus replies and may be 10 legitimate replies to his 100 million spam emails. We should be able to swamp ou

  • Wow! MS collected 10% of their legal bills.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )
      This won't have been about earning money for MS, it will have been about taking it away from this cretin and trying to make sure he doesn't do it again.
  • In other news, Hotmail sets the record for allowing the most spam through it filters.

    My current empirical estimate is 1,000,000,000 per day.
  • If a spammer sends you spam, and is refusing to own up to it, can you DoS his server and wait for him to go to the authorities, just so you can get him in an arrestable situation for the spam? I mean, it would be pretty funny to get him to tell the judge you did it in retaliation for the porno spam he sent you.

    I know it's risky, but I think retaliatory hacking and cyberwarfare is justified, provided you can present adequate documentation and research verifying the targets actions, against spammers. It's che
  • but I'm starting to worry about the implications and far reaching effects of determining what is spam, and unlawful usage of email systems, etc etc.

    It reminds me vaguely of companies slapping down DMCA suits on anyone who mentions their product or company in a negative light.

    Eventually, companies and law enforcement will have the tools and the law on their side (everyone hates spam, right?) ... but then who gets to determine the definition of spam?

    I'm sure we can all come up with a number of scenarios which
  • $87177 Time for Bill to buy himself that new ivory back scratcher.
  • To get the money, they need to contact a gentleman in Nigeria ...

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -- Thomas Alva Edison