In ordering a New Hampshire man to stop sending spyware that takes over parts of a user's computer, a federal judge has sent a warning shot at spammers in the United States. The downside, one data-security expert says, is that the action could encourage some spammers to move their activities offshore.
After a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission, Judge Joseph DiClerico Jr. issued a temporary restraining order last weekend against Stanford Wallace, a self-described businessman who calls himself "Spamford." Wallace has been derisively called "the Spam King" by millions of users who have received his unsolicited spam E-mails.
In his order, DiClerico pointed to consumer complaints over E-mails allegedly sent by Wallace that included "unauthorized changes of their home pages, difficulty using their computers, an infusion of pop-up ads, including pornographic ads and ads for anti-spyware software."
In its civil complaint against Wallace, the FTC said his spyware was secretly installed on the computers of users, who then were informed they had spyware on their computers and could have it removed by paying a fee for a removal program.
Ron Crawford, president of data-security systems provider Inside The Box Inc., hailed the action by the FTC and the judge's decision. "It's a terrific first step," Crawford said in an interview. "And it could serve to dampen the spammers in North America."
However, Crawford noted that many research studies indicate that the spamming phenomenon--including spyware--shows no signs of abating. It's suspected that some spammers in North America are simply using offshore servers--particularly in China--to send unwanted E-mail, while the spam originates in the United States, he said.
"Consumers are going to have to live with spam and spyware for the foreseeable future," Crawford said. "I don't see how we can stop spam completely." The more sinister practice of phishing is likely to grow more quickly, he said, simply because there's more money to be made from it than from spyware.
As for Wallace's unwanted E-mails, DiClerico's order states that "the defendants are hereby required to remove, within 24 hours, from any Web site, bulletin board, or Internet server controlled by defendants any software script that exploits Web browser security vulnerabilities."
In an interview with New Hampshire-based Foster's Daily Democrat newspaper, Wallace said that the order "covers a very narrow portion of our business." Wallace has denied any wrongdoing, and his attorney said Wallace wants to use the Internet for advertising in lawful ways.
In a statement, Laura Sullivan, the FTC attorney who filed the complaint against Wallace, said: "We see it [the judge's order] as good relief for consumers."
Wallace has been living in Las Vegas in recent months, although he has been operating a series of New Hampshire-based companies, which are in various stages of solvency and insolvency.