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Last Decade in Spam

CAUCE, the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, has looked back at the notable events of the last decade in our industry.

[Each year/link below explodes to a discrete blog entry with a month-by-month break-out of notable events]

Y2K is possibly best described as the year the Mail Abuse Protection System got sued. A lot. MAPS, as many will remember, was the preeminent anti-spam blacklist at the time, in use by many major receiving sites, and they took some controversial steps to block some major email senders of the day, who in turn, launched lawsuits to prevent that from happening.

2001 was a year fraught with legal wrangling in Washington State, Arizona, the U.S. congress, and the EU, false positives, ORBS operator Alan Brown being sued and threatened with arrest, and a spate of new email viruses.

2002 marks a year when politicians Sean Connery, Bill Jones & Elizabeth Dole used spam to various effect, Ellen Spertus won $4.26 in her suit against a spammer, Joey McNichol was sued for calling someone a spammer in Australia, and Joel Hodgell lost a case and had to pay a spammer’s legal fees. The FTC determined that unsubscribing from spam did nothing positive nor negative, Bonded Sender, Habeas, and Cloudmark all launched their services.

2003 was the year of CAN-SPAM, AMEY (AOL, Earthlink, Microsoft & Yahoo!) legal initiatives, the FTC Spam Conference, Scott Richter being sued for spamming, and the Sobig and Blaster viruses.

2004 saw Bill Gates make an infamous prediction, CAN-SPAM came into play and is immediately criticized by those who must enforce it, DomainKeys & Sender ID battle it out in a popularity contest, and Scott Richter appears on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, debates a spam cop, and goes into the shmata trade. None end well.

2005 saw Scott Richter file bankruptcy to avoid paying fines, Alan Ralsky arrested, and CAN-SPAM evaluated for renovations. AOL gave away gold. Spammer gold.

Spam grows 143% in 2006. Christopher ‘Rizler’ Smith threatens to kill a witness in his trial, Alan Ralsky partner Daniel Lin pleads guilty. Datran Media settles a lawsuit filed against them over what is called “the largest deliberate breach of Internet privacy discovered by U.S. authorities”. Goodmail stuns California senators, Blue Frog hops off into the sunset, pump & dump is discovered to increase stock prices. Sanford Wallace is fined for distributing spyware, AOL wants to dig up some turf. e360 Insight wins its case against The Spamhaus Project. Australia wins against Wayne Mansfield.

Scott Richter made the news again in 2007, MySpace sued him for phishing and spamming their members. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission became active in shutting down pump & dump spamming organizations. Several major companies, including the Bank of America and Pfizer were found to be hosting zombie computers. Physician, heal thyself. New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore adopted anti-spam legislation. Robert Soloway was arrested for spamming and a raft of other crimes. Mark Mumma lost his case against Cruise.com and the defendant is awarded $2,500,000 in damages. Jeremy Jaynes appealed his conviction. Xavier Ratelle was the first person charged under the U.S. Safe Web Act.

Alan Ralsky was arrested and charged. His co-conspirators begin testifying against one another. Robert Soloway & Newport Marketing Corporation plead guilty. Jeremy Jaynes’ conviction was overturned on constitutional grounds. Walt Rines and Sanford Wallace are found guilty of spamming MySpace. Eddie Davidson is sentenced to 21 months in a minimum-security prison, escapes, and tragically kills his wife and daughter, before taking his own life. Scott Richter loses a CAN-SPAM case to MySpace. Adam Vitale is found guilty under CAN-SPAM, rounding off his various convictions to 22. Lance Anderson and his gang were charged with spamming under American, Australian, and New Zealand law. American ISPs McColo and Atrivo are shut down, taking down botnets, temporarily. Former Neo-Nazi and ‘bum fighting’ video empresario Adam Guerbuez of Montreal Canada is found guilty under a CAN-SPAM action launched by Facebook. They win a quarter of a billion dollars.

In 2009, Sanford Wallace was sued under CAN-SPAM by Facebook. The BBC controlled a botnet. Canada introduced serious anti-spam legislation, which didn’t make it through the legislative process. Alan Ralsky pled guilty and went to prison with his co-conspirators. ISP Pricewert was taken down by the FTC for hosting botnet controllers, MEGA-D takes a hit as a result. Fireye took down the remnants later in the year. Habitat UK spammed Twitter using Iranian election hash tags. James Gordon lost his case against Virtumundo. Herbal King spammers Lance and Shane Atkinson are fined under New Zealand, Australian and American anti-spam law. Vodafone was fined for spamming for Coca-cola. ASIS lost its CAN-SPAM case against AzoogleAds.

By Neil Schwartzman, Executive Director, The Coalition Against unsolicited Commercial Email - CAUCE

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Great summary Garth Bruen  –  Jan 6, 2010 2:53 AM

Great summary

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