Feeds

Anti-spammer fined $60K for DNS lookup 'hack'

Whois also ruled dodgy by North Dakota court

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

David Ritz, the veteran American spam-fighter, has been hit by $60,000 in fines plus lawyers fees after losing a civil suit that accused him of illegal hacking.

Sierra Corporate Design, a North Dakota business run by alleged former spammer Jerry Reynolds, sued Ritz for hacking and trespass offences. Ritz was accused of conducting unauthorized whois and DNS lookups. Edward Falk, another anti-spam campaigner and operator of the "Spam Tracking Page", was named as co-defendant.

The complaint alleged that Ritz "hacked" servers owned by Sierra (which describes itself as a specialist web hosting and internet services firm), obtaining confidential internal network configuration data (using a zone transfer, host -l command) and domain name information (using whois) before publishing that data on the net. It was alleged that Falk assisted Ritz by republishing his findings. The case was originally filed in May 2005. An injunction, which allowed Sierra's lawyers to ask Google to purge its Usenet archives of "offending material" was issued in August 2005.

In October 2006, the North Dakota court ruled that it did not have jurisdiction over Falk, a Californian resident, dismissing the suit against him. The case against Ritz proceeded.

Hearings in Fargo last October before Judge Cynthia Rothe-Seeger resulted in a surprise 11 January ruling (PDF, transcript with commentary) against Ritz. He was ordered to pay $53,000 in damages, a $10,000 fine for contempt against breaching an injunction and lawyers' fees, which could run into tens of thousands.

It's unclear if Ritz intends to appeal. His problems don't stop there because he faces possible criminal prosecution over the same supposed offences.

The case has sparked concern and support from the anti-spam community. "He [Ritz] got prosecuted for using the same Unix tools that the rest of us use all the time to troubleshoot problems, admin our systems, and track spammers," notes Reg reader Mark.

Supporters are urged to donate to a legal defense fund, set up to defend anti-spam activists against so-called SLAPP lawsuits (getting sued for speaking out on a matter of public concern).

In a separate case Reynolds sued Falk unsuccessfully for defamation for calling him a porn spammer.

Falk had accused Reynolds of involvement with Netzilla, for a time the single largest source of spam on Usenet. The published allegations led to the unsuccessful "John Doe" lawsuit against Falk in Reynolds' home town of Fargo, ND.

More background on the history of legal antagonism between Falk and Reynolds can be found at Falk's site here and elsewhere. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
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
Desperate VXers enslave FREEZERS in DDoS bot
Updated Spike malware targets Asia
Heatmiser digital thermostat users: For pity's sake, DON'T SWITCH ON the WI-FI
A stranger turns up YOUR heat with default password 1234
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.