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First Chinese firm hit by spam fine

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An unnamed firm from the south-eastern Chinese city of Shenzhen has been fined 5,000 yuan ($630) for distributing spam email, after the first case of its kind in the country.

The mystery firm was clobbered after distributing a "vast amount" of junk mail since January, the China Daily reports. It's unclear what the offending messages were seeking to promote.

Firms or individuals found guilty of distributing spam cam be fined up to 30,000 yuan ($3,765) under newly-enacted laws on "Measures for the Administration of Internet Email Service", announced in March.

Chinese authorities hope the fine against the Shenzhen firm will act as a deterrent. "The fine will send a warning to spam senders," Zhang Aiping, vice-director of the Guangdong Provincial Administration of Communication told China Daily.

Until recently, China has acted as a "safe-haven" for spammers offering so-called bullet-proof hosting - in reality, unscrupulous ISPs who pull the plug on spammers when enough complaints are received by their upstream provider. Foreign spammers (many from the US) have exploited China's historically lax attitude to junk mail to offshore spam runs to Chinese ISPs.

But attitudes in the Chinese ISP market are changing and local service providers have shown their willingness to work with international organisations, such as Spamhaus, who is rooting out illegal spam gangs. The front-line of this fight has moved onto the desktops of ordinary net users.

Last month, net security firm Sophos reported that almost 20 per cent of spam originated from computers based in China. Much of this spam is being sent out through virus-infected hosts, known as "zombies", in botnet networks of compromised Windows PCs under the control of hackers.

Junk mail is a burden on net users worldwide and China's surfers are far from immune. The Internet Society of China estimates the country's 111m internet users receive more than 50bn junk mails per year. ®

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