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Microsoft Acts Against Spam Again

Company files eight new lawsuits, seeking injunctions and as much as $1 million in fines.

Microsoft has filed eight more lawsuits against nearly 200 alleged spammers in the past two weeks, stepping up a year-old legal campaign against senders of junk E-mail.

The current round of lawsuits--Microsoft has filed 80 such suits worldwide--seeks injunctions against the defendants and may result in civil fines of as much as $1 million per defendant under the federal Can-Spam Act and Washington state laws. One person named, John Hites of Florida, is one of the world's most prolific spammers, according to nonprofit anti-spam group Spamhaus.org.

Microsoft and other big Internet service providers have been using a mix of technological and legal remedies to crack down on spam. The Federal Trade Commission last week said it won settlements from two senders of "phishing" E-mails that tried to dupe America Online subscribers into disclosing bank-account numbers and other information. Also last week, AT&T Wireless, Charles Schwab, IBM, and other companies formed a group to promote standards that could guard against identity theft.

According to Gartner, 57 million U.S. adults have received phishing E-mail; more than 75% of those arrived in the last six months.

But Bart Lazar, a partner at national law firm Seyfarth Shaw, gives the legal broadside against spammers mixed marks. The FTC last week said it wouldn't create a "do not spam" registry for fear it could be hacked. Says Lazar: "To say this has been anything more than moderately successful would unfortunately be an overstatement."

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing