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MCI 'makes $5m a year from spam gangs'

Spamhaus accuses telco of aiding and abetting junk mailers

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Spamhaus has slammed MCI for hosting a website selling spamming software that is allegedly integral to the illegal trade in compromised PCs. The site - send-safe.com - sells spamware called Send Safe which uses broadband-connected PCs infected by viruses such as SoBig to distribute junk mail.

More than 70 per cent of spam comes from PCs infected with viruses or trojans, according to Spamhaus, a leading anti-spam organisation. By using compromised machines (proxies in spammer parlance) - instead of open mail relays or unscrupulous hosts - spammers can bypass basic anti-spam defences, such as IP address blacklists. Spamhaus reckons 80,000-100,000 new PCs every week are infected, leading to ever increasing volumes of spam. Spammers and their coding allies are coming up with new tricks to make the approach even more effective, with Send-Safe's developers as the forefront of this illegal activity.

The latest version of Send-Safe allows spammers to use hijacked proxies to send the spam out via the upstream ISP's main mail server, instead of from an infected machine itself. Ruslan Ibragimov, author of the 'Send-Safe'package, also sell lists of freshly-infected proxies to the spammer community, according to Spamhaus.

"MCI Worldcom not only know very well they are hosting the Send Safe spam operation, MCI's executives know send-safe.com uses the MCI network to sell and distribute the illegal Send Safe proxy hijacking bulk mailer, yet MCI has been providing service to send-safe.com for more than a year," writes Spamhaus director Steve Linford.

Timothy Vogel, who heads MCI's legal team for technology issues, told the Washington Post that MCI is only the wholesale provider of the web space used by Send Safe. He told the paper that MCI would take action if it had evidence that the Send-Safe company was spamming which "would violate MCI policy". But merely advertising its product is a form of speech that should not be censored, he said.

Linford said Vogel's interpretation of the law is incorrect. "While commercial speech is given qualified protection under the first amendment, advertising the sale of software designed for the prime purpose of allowing the end-user to engage in illegal activities is not protected under the first amendment," he said

"MCI have flatly refused to stop send-safe.com and other proxy spam gangs, which has allowed Send Safe to become one of the most sold anonymous proxy hijacking bulk mailers on the spam scene, and has had ever more spammers flocking to MCI," Linford added.

Spamhaus accuses MCI of being on the wrong side of the fight against junk mail not just by hosting send-safe.com but becoming a safe haven for spammers in general. MCI ISP tops Spamhaus's chart of 'Top 10 World Worst Spam Service ISPs'. It estimates MCI "earns upwards of $5m a year" from selling service knowingly to known spam gangs. ®

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