Spamming tool goes on the run

Months of pressure from anti-spam campaigners have paid off. Send-Safe.com is no longer being hosted by MCI, and didn't get a warm welcome when it pitched up at Lycos

A service that helped spammers to send junk emails over the Internet was on the run on Monday after US telecoms giant MCI bowed to mounting pressure and stopped hosting it late last week.

Send-Safe.com moved to Lycos' Tripod network over the weekend ago after it quietly moved from MCI's network. But on Monday the Web site was down for the second time in 48 hours with a message from Lycos that said: "The page you are attempting to access has been removed because it violated Tripod's Terms of Service."

Earlier this month, anti-spam campaigner Spamhaus accused MCI of harbouring spammers by allowing Send-Safe.com to be hosted on its network. This led to a storm of protest, with organisations such as the London Internet Exchange threatening tough action against telcos who helped spammers.

"The amount of heat it [MCI] was getting was too much," said Steve Linford, director of anti-spam campaign group Spamhaus. "But the rest of the spam gangs are still there."

MCI had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.

Send-Safe is now reported to be giving away its software tool for free. The program works in conjunction with "zombie-making" viruses such as the Sobig, Sober and MyDoom, and uses Windows PCs to send spam via an ISP's mail server to avoid being blocked by blacklists of domain names used by spammers. In order for the program to work, spammers must regularly buy fresh lists of compromised computers. Linford said this is where the Send-Safe owner makes his money.

Send-Safe was hosted on a subsidiary company of MCI for around 18 months. Before that Spamhaus forced four Chinese ISPs to expel the Send-Safe Web site.

Linford has lobbied MCI over recent months to remove the site and recently engaged in talks with EU ministers and OECD officials to ban the tool.

"We're happy for all these things, but we're not getting rid of the site -- we'll have to keep kicking it off other ISPs for years," said Linford. "It would have been much better news if MCI had changed its acceptable use policy."

Reports have also come in that the Web site was temporarily hosted in Russia.

Last year, Lycos started a short-lived campaign to carry out denial-of-service attacks on spammers. The company quickly withdrew the "Make Love Not Spam" campaign after it received heavy industry criticism.

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