Dutch mass spammer loses grip

Empire unravelling fast

Martijn Bevelander is not a happy man. The 23 year-old Dutch entrepreneur was exposed last week by the BBC as a mass spammer. Now his company Megaprovider is sinking.

As well as hosting pornographic websites for notorious spam gangs such as Superzonda, MegaProvider has allegedly sent large quantities of spam for mostly American clients through an Amsterdam-based subsidiary called CyberAngels.

Several Dutch internet companies suspected this for some time. Even American spam fighters began to notice an increase of spam originating from the Low Countries.

The BBC discovered that Superzonda, a South American spam gang which may have used the Sobig virus to install open proxies on end-users machines, hijacked British Airways' computers without its knowledge to advertise a website called beautifulwomentodate.com (offering Russian brides).

The registry information mentioned a server belonging to an Amsterdam company CyberAngels, which is linked to Bevelander through several other businesses, including MAPS - spam spelled backwards- Holding (no relation with the MAPS anti-spam organisation) Although the records of the Dutch Chambers of Commerce and other registries leave little doubt about the relationship, Bevelander denies any involvement with CyberAngels.

Even more revealing is that Bevelander teamed up with Brian Westby, who had to appear for a U.S. District Court in April for running an allegedly illegal spam operation that used deceptively bland subject lines, false return addresses and empty "reply-to" links to expose internet users, including children, to sexually explicit material. Westby, 23, was on the board of MAPS until May this year.

Dutch ISPs don't need more evidence. Last week Megaprovider lost several peering contracts (meaning it won't be able to share network capacity with other ISPs), and some companies have blocked traffic from the ISP and hosting company altogether. The Amsterdam collocation and backbone provider TrueServer disconnected Megaprovider as early as June 2002, after receiving 30,000 spam complaints a day.

Last week, Spanish company Telefonica dropped Beverlander as a client for breach of their terms and conditions regarding unsolicited bulk e-mail.

The Dutch Association of Internet Providers has started an investigation and may discharge Megaprovider as a member later this week.

The uproar surrounding Cyber Angels may well mark the end of the illustrious career of Bevelander, who abandoned school at 17 to start his own internet company, and often mentioned Uncle Scrooge as his main inspiration.

Meanwhile, Dutch antispam foundation Spamvrij.nl now owns the domain Cyberangels.nl, which Bevelander dropped last week to cover his traces. The website will be used to make public any information about Bevelander and his companies. "As a bonus, we are now getting all mail addressed to the previous spammers," board member Karin Spaink of Spamvrij.nl says. "In less than 24 hours we have already received over 6,000 spam reports and bounces." ®

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