Feeds

$1bn lawsuit takes novel approach in fighting spam

Harvesters of sorrow targeted

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A group opposed to spam is taking a novel approach to fighting the scourge by using a mountain of data and a $1bn lawsuit to go after email harvesters who make possible all those penis-enlargement solicitations in the first place.

The complaint, filed by Project Honey Pot on behalf of tens of thousands of members in more than 100 countries, targets those who operate the spiders that crawl endlessly throughout the web in search of email addresses. These harvesters of sorrow then sell the addresses to spammers.

"If you've harvested email addresses or sent spam in the last two years, chances are you're on our radar screen and we're coming after you," Project Honey Pot officials warned on their website.

PHP offers a free software program that allows websites to display email addresses that are different each time a page is accessed. The software records the visitor's IP number and the corresponding unique email address. That allows PHP to know with certainty who harvested Spam sent to a given address. To date, Project Honey Pot says it's identified 15,570 IP addresses used by harvesters.

The suit, filed in federal court in the eastern district of Virginia, names unidentified John Does as defendants. Lawyers plan to use the power of the subpoena to force ISPs to divulge the identities of the individuals who control the IP addresses tracked by PHP.

The suit invokes the CAN-SPAM act, which carries fines of $1 per message or $25,000 per day. It was passed in 2003 to great fanfare but has so far done little to reduce the amount of crap clogging the average person's inbox. (Current estimates are that spam accounts for 80 per cent to 90 per cent of all email sent.) It also invokes a Virginia law targeting spam.

PHP officials say the lawsuit is the first to target harvesters. While CAN-SPAM allows for harvesters to be named, doing so is tough because the burden of proof is too high.

PHP is being represented by Jon Praed of the Internet Law Group, who has successfully represented AOL and Verizon against spammers. From our perch at Vulture Central, we're somewhat skeptical about the lawsuit's chances of success. For one thing, many harvesters are likely outside the reach of US courts, and we also wonder if PHP has legal standing to sue. Of course, we hate spam too, so we certainly wish them the best. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.