A Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book Spam Kings by Brian McWilliams

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September 30, 2005

Brendan Battles, ex-spammer

Another longtime spam king has apparently gone out of business. In recent weeks, Florida spammer Brendan Battles was quietly removed from the Spamhaus Register of Known Spam Operations.

The 34-year-old Battles had been listed on ROKSO since the database's inception in 2000. Head of Coral Springs-based DataCom Marketing Corp. and Image Marketing Group Online, Inc., Battles reportedly sent up to 50 million spams per day for things like subliminal weight loss tapes. Battles also used spam to advertise CD-ROMs containing millions of email addresses, including one called Master Disk (aka Max Disc).

maxdisc_2.gifWhile it may not be as notable as the recent ROSKO de-listing of Scott Richter, Battles' exit from the spam business is significant.

Like Richter, Battles regularly tangled with anti-spammers. In early 2003, Spamhaus director Steve Linford blamed Battles for a 2003 joe-job attack on SpamCop and Spamhaus. A flurry of spam was forged with the signature, "Steve Linford - God of the Internet."

In late March 2003, to prevent Battles from "abusing open proxies on Cox," Spamhaus temporarily blacklisted a swath of Internet protocol addresses owned by cable-Internet provider Cox Communications.

Shiksaa, the heroine of Spam Kings, published AIM log files of some of her first online conversations with Battles. She and other anti-spammers later blamed Battles for being involved in a (failed) 2003 lawsuit against her and several other high-profile anti-spammers.

Somehow, the mega-spammer managed to elude lawsuits. He was nicked with a joint lawsuit by Earthlink and CIS Internet in 2001. But a judge dismissed the case after more than six months passed "without any substantial proceedings."

Although his ROKSO record is gone, Battles is still listed on the Spews.org blacklist. He made no secret of his distaste for Spews. At one point in 2003, he configured his datacommarketing.com site so it would re-direct visitors to AntiSPEWS.org, a site that tried to persuade system administrators not to use the controversial blacklist.

Posted by Brian at 10:40 AM

September 26, 2005

Pump-and-dump stock scam

Over the weekend, there was a big surge in homeland-security spams touting the stock of a company called 2-Track Global, Inc. TOTG.jpg

The flood of pump-and-dump spams (examples here) was big enough to catch the eye of the SANS Internet Storm Center, which speculated that the senders were exploiting some sort of web security vulnerability to relay their spams through innocent third-party sites.

Over on the Nanae discussion list, some folks believe the spammers are targeting a third-party application called Perl Builder.

The Korea-hosted website of 2-Track Global is currently unreachable, but Google's cache has some information. A lookup on the ticker TOTG reveals the company is actually operated out of London.

Spam Kings discusses a couple of spam-enabled stock frauds, including one aided by the infamous Rodona Garst.

The SEC maintains a section at its site about pump and dump scams, aka microcap fraud.

Posted by Brian at 4:36 PM

September 23, 2005

Oklahoma court nails spam king

braver.jpgRobert Soloway, ranked one of the top-10 spammers in the world, has been vanquished in a federal court by the operator of a small Oklahoma-based Internet service provider.

Yesterday, U.S.Judge Ralph G. Thompson granted a motion by plaintiff Robert Braver (pictured) for a default judgment and permanent injunction against Soloway. The judgment includes a statutory damages award of $10,075,000 under Oklahoma law.

Here's the math:

1. Soloway violated the Oklahoma Fraudulent Use of Electronic Mail statute. 206 days of spam emails to Braver from Soloway times $25,000 per violation = $5,150,000.

2. Soloway violated the Oklahoma Unsolicited Commercial Electronic Mail statute. 197 days of spam emails to Braver from Soloway times $25,000 per violation = $4,925,000.

Regarding Soloway's violations of the federal CAN-SPAM law, Braver sought and received a permanent injunction barring Soloway from further violations of CAN-SPAM.

After dismissing his lawyer in June so he could represent himself, Soloway apparently failed to make required court appearances or file necessary documents. Hence the default judgment.

Earlier this year, Soloway was roughed up in court by Microsoft. (The software giant was awarded a default judgment in May; I'm not aware of the damages award.)

Shortly after the Microsoft judgment, the combative Soloway launched "Spamis," a spam-based anti-Microsoft campaign. Soloway also sought to retaliate against Braver by soliciting spammers for dirt on Braver.

Posted by Brian at 4:16 PM

Latest on Spamford's spyware case

A while back, we wondered aloud about the whereabouts of Sanford "Spamford" Wallace. The former megaspammer, who's profiled in Spam Kings, is facing an October 2004 lawsuit from the Federal Trade Commission over illegally spreading spyware.sanford-opm.jpg

As we suspected, Sanford is currently working as a disk jockey at the OPM Nightclub in Las Vegas (warning: annoying ShockWave site).

Meanwhile, the FTC is getting frustrated. In late July, the agency complained to the court about the "lack of cooperation" from Wallace and his company, SmartBot.net, Inc.

FTC lawyers told the court, "Throughout the entire litigation, defendants have engaged in stalling tactics to frustrate discovery and progress in the case. In fact, to this day, defendants have not produced a single document in response to discovery requests that the FTC served nearly five months ago."

The FTC also disclosed that Wallace has refused to discuss settling the litigation.

Sanford's trial had originally been scheduled for November 1, but due to Sanford's foot-dragging, earlier this month the judge postponed it until March 21, 2006.

Posted by Brian at 2:29 PM | Comments (3)

September 22, 2005

Confusing spam stats

I'm not sure how to interpret a new report from MX Logic.

The anti-spam company's press release says that spam constituted 67% of all email traffic so far in 2005, versus 76% for the same 8-month period in 2004.

Sounds like good news, right?

But the PR goes on to says that "the overall volume of spam carried on the Internet continues to increase." Hang on -- so all MX Logic really discovered is that legitimate email traffic increased faster than spam traffic in 2005.

Yet the company's CEO is quoted as saying that the stats may indicate that " improved email defense technology and high-profile prosecutions of spammers might be having some effect.”

Huh? Unless I missed something, sounds like we're getting more spam than ever, but its being diluted by a surge in "good" email. I'm not sure you can call that progress.

Posted by Brian at 9:35 PM | Comments (1)

"Syzurp" pushers busted by DEA

syzurp.jpgNo evidence yet that spam was involved, but it's bound to have repercussions in the spam world ... Another high-tech drug dealing syndicate has been shut down by the feds in an operation called CybeRx.

Eighteen members of the Texas-based Internet pharmacy outfit, apparently headed by a guy named Johar Saran, with the help of a crooked pharmacist named Leslie Wayne Davidoff, were indicted Tuesday. The Drug Enforcement Administration claims the gang sold controlled substances without a prescription, including hydrocodone, pherntermine, and promethazine cough syrup with codeine.

The latter, also known on the street as "syzurp," was one of the outfit's top sellers. (They apparently peddled 70,000 bottles of the stuff to dealers who sold it to high school and college students.)

According to the indictment, some of the drug sites inivolved are nationsdrugsupply.com, rxgreatprices.com, rxduncan.com, and rxcentury.com.

Given all the recent pharma busts, it's amazing to me that any of these so-called NROPs (No Record Online Pharmacy) still dare to operate in the USA.

Then again, the DEA said the gang averaged more than $50,000 a day in profits. The income enabled Saran to own a 22,000-square-foot, $3.8M home in Arlington, Texas.

Posted by Brian at 4:26 PM

September 21, 2005

Old law beats new type of spam

"Texting" didn't exist in 1991 when the Telephone Consumer Protection Act became U.S. law. But an Arizona court says the TCPA nonetheless protects cellphone users from text-message (aka SMS) spamming.

The Arizona Court of Appeals this week upheld a 2002 superior court ruling that Acacia Mortgage Corp. violated the TCPA when it sent Rodney Joffe two SMS spams in 2001.

Joffe filed a lawsuit against Acacia in 2001 under the TCPA, seeking $1,000 in damages.

The appeals court yesterday unanimously rejected Acacia's argument that the superior court should not have ruled against it because the TCPA does not apply to text messages, and if it does, the TCPA violated its rights under the First Amendment. (If you like this sort of thing, the court's opinion makes interesting reading. Check it out here.)

Joffe says that, as a result of the appeals court ruling, the case now will go back to the trial court. The judge there must decide two issues: 1.) Did Acacia knowingly and willingly send the cellphone spam? (If so, the court could treble the money awarded) and 2.) Should the case be certified as a class-action lawsuit, involving 89,999 other victims in Arizona?

Joffe told me via email: "I am hopeful that the Court will find in our favor in both instances, and that, as a result, this case will serve notice to marketers who are intent on doing to cellphones what Canter and Seigel did to email that they've made a serious mistake."

Even if he prevails again in court, however, Joffe says he expects Acacia to appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court. No surprise: if the case becomes a class action, Acacia could faces damages as high as $135M.

Posted by Brian at 10:30 PM

September 20, 2005

Penance by a spam king

callcenter Now that spammer turned drug-telemarketer Creaghan Harry no longer has Chris Smith as a customer, he's apparently trying to drum up new business for his Dominican Republic-based callcenter operation.

A reader points out a press release issued earlier this month by the Dominican Republic Call Center Association. The PR says the DRCCA, with the help of a company called Americas Best Worldwide, will provide a toll-free number to take calls from Hurricane Katrina "victims, friends and family." The PR claims that operators will "look up information via the Internet, send brief emails, or even make phone calls on their behalf."

Creaghan's name has been scrubbed from the DRCCA site, but this link shows that he was once listed as the association's founder and senior adviser. According to the tipster, Harry is also behind several illegal pharmacies, including Americas Best Pharmacy.

I am reminded of the time in 2001 when Scott Richter organized a fund-raising effort for 9/11 victims. As I described in Spam Kings, lots of people assumed Richter was running a scam. My anonymous tipster seems to feel the same about Harry's effort: "Everything is a Scam. Try to spread the word," he writes.

Posted by Brian at 1:39 PM | Comments (3)

September 18, 2005

Unemployed welder wins spam king's Hummer

Marc DanielsLooks like a lucky guy from Connecticut has won the grand prize in the AOL Spammer's Gold Sweepstakes, taking home $85,000 in gold and cash, along with a Hummer H2.

Marc Daniels and his wife Laura picked up the loot Sept. 8 at AOL headquarters. They reportedly plan to stash the cash in their retirement account, and Laura will drive the H2.

I haven't seen any official word yet on who won the ten $1,000 Daily Prizes. I'll update this entry when I get the details.

Posted by Brian at 10:04 AM | Comments (4)

September 6, 2005

SK blog status

Due to some impending travel and other distractions, it may be a week or two before my next update. In the meantime, if you're curious about my book Spam Kings, check out the About the Book section of this site. If you're just looking for a fix of anti-spam or spammer news, visit Nanae, SpecialHam, or any of the sites listed in the Related Blogs column on the right.

Posted by Brian at 11:28 PM

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