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10/29/2004
08:20 PM
John Soat
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IT Confidential: Spim, Spam, Spyware, And The Flu Vaccine

'Popping a pill from a spammer is akin to online Russian Roulette.'

It's called "spim," and it's the instant-messaging equivalent of spam--a shotgun blast of unwanted advertisements via instant-messaging tools or chat rooms. Last week America Online moved to nip it in the bud by bringing lawsuits against 20 "John Does," identified by their numeric IP addresses. The lawsuits were brought in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, along with 10 other lawsuits against spammers AOL accuses of "peddling controlled substances, including Vicodin and other pharmaceuticals," mostly in Europe and Canada. With the lawsuits taken together, AOL is asking for statutory damages totaling millions of dollars and "disgorgement of illegal profits," according to a statement. The lawsuits stem from more than 2 million complaints on the part of AOL members and allege violations of the Federal CAN-Spam law and Virginia's anti-spam state law. AOL's lawsuits were made in conjunction with the Anti-Spam Alliance, which it formed last year with partners EarthLink, Microsoft, and Yahoo. The alliance partners also announced last week they had filed lawsuits against spammers in courts in California, Georgia, and Washington state.

Spammers and phishers are taking advantage of the shortage of flu vaccine in the United States to dupe consumers into divulging credit-card numbers or buying bogus doses online, a security firm warned last week. Bogus offers for the flu vaccine are "rampant," according to Vircom, a Montreal E-mail security vendor, and unlicensed vaccines are being sold by unregulated online pharmacies and offshore suppliers. "The vaccine shortage has caused some people to become desperate, creating new opportunities for scammers to defraud E-mail users," said Marc Chouinard, head of Vircom's anti-spam team, in a statement.

The Recording Industry Association of America filed lawsuits last week against 750 computer users, most of them college students, in its attempt to control the illegal distribution of music over the Internet. The universities named in the RIAA lawsuits were Indiana State, Iowa State, Ohio State, and Southern Mississippi. Since September 2003, more than 6,000 people have been charged with violating intellectual-property laws as part of the recording industry's anti-file-sharing campaign.

A nationwide survey concerning spyware conducted by Equation Research for Webroot Software, a Boulder, Colo., security vendor, found that more than 70% of the 275 companies polled see the surreptitious monitoring software as a threat, but fewer than 10% have deployed anti-spyware software to protect their networks. According to Webroot, most companies incorrectly assume they're immune from spyware because of the security software they already have in place.

I always assume I'm being watched anyway--it makes me feel wanted, and it fits my paranoid view of the world. I assume you'll send me an industry tip, to jsoat@cmp.com, or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about buying prescription drugs online, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.

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