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AOL and Earthlink chase spammers through the courts

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AOL and EarthLink have set their lawyers against spammers they hold responsible for inundating their respective users with illegal junk email.

AOL is suing a Florida company while EarthLink is targeting a "multi-state spam ring" it accuses of sending out more than 250 million spam messages.

Both actions develop legal cases first filed last year.

Junkbusters

According to AOL's lawsuit, Connor Miller Software inundated AOL members with 35 millions spam messages promoting low interest mortgage services. The company also sold software designed to bypass AOL's anti-spam filters, according to the lawsuit.

Charles Miller told Reuters that his company ran a network for two alleged spam but denied his firm actually sent out spam email.

AOL first sued Connor Miller Software in Virginia last April. Its decision to file suit in Florida follows a December 2003 ruling that the Virginia courts have no jurisdiction over Connor Miller Software.

Earthlink targets "Alabama Spammers"
EarthLink's lawsuit identifies 16 individuals and corporations in Florida (Orlando), California (Woodland Hills, Marina Del Rey, Valencia, Los Angeles), Tennessee (Medina), Michigan (Southfield) and Nevada (Las Vegas, Carson City). Earthlink has nicknamed the group the "Alabama Spammers" because of their frequent use of phone lines in and around Birmingham, Alabama.

The defendants in the suit include individuals listed as among the world's largest spammers by ROKSO, the Register of Known Spam Operations, maintained by anti-spam organisation The Spamhaus Project.

Atlanta-based EarthLink is gunning for people and companies it reckons are recalcitrant spammers. It is seeking an injunction and unspecified damages.

In its lawsuit, EarthLink charges the defendants with violating federal and state laws, including federal and state civil RICO laws, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act.

RICO laws - normally applied against organised crime - are being applied in this case against junk mailers.

Spamming and spoofing

The lawsuit also alleges the defendants used stolen or falsified credit cards, identity theft, banking fraud and other illegal activities to fraudulently purchase Internet accounts from which to spam.

According to an Amended Complaint filed on February 17 in US District Court in Atlanta, the group represent a technically sophisticated criminal organization "engaged in a massive scheme of theft, spamming and spoofing."

To hide their identities, the defendants allegedly sent spam directing recipients to "dynamically-hosted Web sites that would disappear after advertising a product". Spamvertised products allegedly included Viagra, herbal supplements, adult matchmaking services and spam-for-hire services.

The case against the Alabama Spammers is the result of a 18 month-long investigation by EarthLink's Abuse Team.

Earthlink said the lawsuit is part of its more general fight against junk mail. Last May, the ISP launched a permission-based spam-fighting tool called spamBlocker.

Korea

ISPs in other countries are getting tough on spammers. South Korea yesterday announced that it had levied fines of 114 million won against 28 local spam merchants.

The marketers were fined for continuing to send unwanted e-mail advertisements, known as spam, to people who had declined further messages, the Information and Communication Ministry said in a statement.

Mobile phone company KTF Co and KBSi (the Net shopping arm of broadcaster KBS) were among the miscreants fined by South Korea's Information and Communication Ministry, according to reports. ®

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