Feeds

Plea deal in 'war spamming' prosecution

Porn mails sent over Wi-Fi networks

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

A Los Angeles man accused of using other people's Wi-Fi networks to send thousands of unsolicited adult-themed emails has entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors in a case filed under the criminal provisions of the federal CAN SPAM Act, officials confirmed Friday.

Nicholas Tombros, 37, was scheduled to enter a guilty plea Friday afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles, but the hearing was abandoned when judge Percy Anderson learned the defense attorney who'd signed off on the deal had been hospitalized and could not appear in court. "[Tombros] said that he wanted to take some time, so the judge scheduled us for a status conference in two weeks," says assistant US attorney Wesley Hsu, who's prosecuting the case.

Tombros' phone number is unlisted, and his new attorney did not return a phone call Friday.

Tombros was charged last month with a single felony under the criminal provisions of the CAN SPAM Act. He allegedly drove around the Los Angeles beachfront suburb of Venice with a laptop and a Wi-Fi antenna sniffing out unsecured residential access points, which he then used to send thousands of untraceable spam messages advertising pornography sites. An FBI spokesperson said Tombros obtained the email addresses from a credit card aggregation company where he used to work.

The CAN-SPAM Act, which took effect 1 January, doesn't criminalize unsolicited bulk commercial email, but it does outlaw most of the deceptive practices used by spammers. Tombros was charged under a provision that prohibits breaking into someone else's computer to send spam. Also outlawed is the practice of deliberately crafting spammy messages to disguise the origin; materially falsifying the headers in spam; spamming from five or more email accounts established under fake names; or hijacking five or more IP addresses and spamming from them.

A first-time violator face up to one year in federal stir for a small-time operation - three years if he or she meets one of several minimum standards of bad behavior, like leading a spam gang of at least three people, sending over 2,500 messages in one day, or using 10 or more falsely-registered domain names. As charged, Tombros faced the higher-tier sentence for the "especially complex and especially intricate offense conduct" of allegedly laundering his spam through wireless networks. Hsu wouldn't comment on the details of the plea agreement, and Tombros remains free to back out of the deal.

The criminal provisions of the Act were first exercised last April, when officials charged four Detroit-area men with sending nearly half-a-million deceptive messages through hijacked proxy servers.

Tombros' next court appearance is scheduled for 17 September.

"Over time spammers have shown that they will use any method that they feel they can use to send email," says Andrew Kirch, a security admin at the Abusive Hosts Blocking List. "We may be looking at an isolated incident, or we may be looking at the next big thing."

Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus logo

Related stories

Spammers embrace email authentication
US cracks down on spam mountain
US tops junk mail Dirty Dozen - again

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, watchdog claims
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.