In The Fight Against Spam, A Few Knockouts - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


In The Fight Against Spam, A Few Knockouts

Microsoft wins $7 million spam settlement; complaints from AOL members drop 85%

Even bringing down someone labeled the "spam king" isn't going to stem the E-mail flood. Scott Richter has agreed to pay Microsoft $7 million to settle a lawsuit and pledged to stop sending unsolicited E-mails, but the spam sent out by Richter's company represented a mere 0.2% of all spam, according to Postini Inc., a spam-filtering service. "That's a drop in the bucket," says Andrew Lochart, Postini's senior director of marketing.

Richter will pay Microsoft $7 million and has promised to stop sending spam.

Richter will pay Microsoft $7 million and has promised to stop sending spam.

Photo by Ken Schles
Instead, technology is helping companies get an edge on spam. "The only reason it's not a problem is that someone invented software to remediate it," says Steve Lanzl, CIO and VP at paper-products producer Bowater Inc. One recent month, Bowater received 560,000 spam E-mails versus 200,000 legitimate messages, but employees rarely saw those unsolicited communications; they were routed to a server hosted by a third party. Bowater's help-desk personnel review spam to make sure legitimate messages aren't erroneously exiled.

Tom Holmes, VP of technology at auto distributor JM Family Enterprises Inc., gets only a couple of spam messages in his in-box each month, crediting Postini's Web-based spam-filtering service. "Spam doesn't hit my radar anymore; it's not an issue," he says.

There are signs that spam is nowhere near the problem it was a few years ago. America Online said last week that spam complaints among members dropped by 85% in nearly two years, and the number of spam messages AOL receives each day dropped by nearly half, or 1 billion a day, during that same period.

AOL gets less spam, a company spokesman contends, because of proprietary filtering technology and members alerting the provider about received spam.

All this doesn't mean spammers have given up. Postini estimates spam E-mails have increased by 65% since January 2002. In one 24-hour-period last week, spammers sent nearly 106 billion

E-mails, it estimates.

While it won't stop spam, the Microsoft settlement with Richter and a recent $13 million federal-court judgment favoring AOL against a group of spammers could deter some would-be spammers. "The decision will have chilling effect within our borders as spammers realize their assets will be subject to risk," says attorney Robert Holtzapple, a partner at Farella Braun & Martel.

Though the Richter deal is the largest spam settlement for Microsoft, it isn't the only one. The company has filed 106 suits against spammers and collected more than $1 million, says Aaron Kornblum, Microsoft's safety-enforcement attorney. Its biggest spam settlement before last week totaled $400,000. In preparing its lawsuits, Microsoft found that many spammers use the same Web-site developers, order-fulfillment houses, domain registrars, and other service providers. "It's a spidery web of different spammers using the same support networks," Kornblum says.

As spammers get desperate, they're shifting tactics. For example, a new wave of E-mails offers a range of security kits, extolled with subject lines such as "Protect your child from sex offenders! Download now!" says Clearswift Ltd., a security-software provider. The shift is a calculated attempt to frighten consumers into buying security products, says Clearswift research director Alyn Hockey, adding he finds selling PC security through spam ironic, since unsolicited E-mail is the same medium used to spread viruses, phishing scams, and spyware.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
2020 State of DevOps Report
2020 State of DevOps Report
Download this report today to learn more about the key tools and technologies being utilized, and how organizations deal with the cultural and process changes that DevOps brings. The report also examines the barriers organizations face, as well as the rewards from DevOps including faster application delivery, higher quality products, and quicker recovery from errors in production.
How to Create a Successful AI Program
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  10/14/2020
Think Like a Chief Innovation Officer and Get Work Done
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  10/13/2020
10 Trends Accelerating Edge Computing
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  10/8/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
[Special Report] Edge Computing: An IT Platform for the New Enterprise
Edge computing is poised to make a major splash within the next generation of corporate IT architectures. Here's what you need to know!
White Papers
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll