International antispam crusades score big wins

International efforts against junk-mail have recently intensified, with the news that the notorious Buffalo Spammer has been jailed and antispam organization SpamHaus gaining favor with the Chinese government.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor on
International efforts to halt spam have intensified in the past week with the news that the notorious Buffalo Spammer will be spending a few years behind bars and flagship antispam organization SpamHaus has charmed the Chinese government into taking the problem seriously.

The Buffalo Spammer-–so-called because he operated out of Buffalo, New York-–has been found guilty of sending more than 825 million spam emails.

The spammer, whose real is name Howard Carmack, will be sentenced to between three and a half and seven years for his crimes. He was convicted on 14 counts of fraud under a recently passed identity theft law.

While the spam community is now one man down, SpamHaus will be taking a different tack to scupper the spammers. Of all junk e-mail landing in users' inboxes, 70 per cent will have come via China. It's a favourite tactic of U.S. spammers, who route their spam through Chinese servers and host sites through the country's sites in order to dodge U.S. spam legislation.

SpamHaus has now set up operations in China to help the government and ISPs stop the tide of junk email that originates from the world's second most prolific spam country.

Steve Linford, founder of SpamHaus, told silicon.com that overcoming cultural issues was one of the largest obstacles. The organization had found its English language site being blocked due to the government's censorship policies and has now set up a SpamHaus written site in Chinese and hosted in China, with details on acceptable usage policies and contract text on the problem for ISPs.

"For a long time, China didn't know what to do about the problem. We've been talking to the Chinese network and we're finally getting the message across," he said.

China does have laws that ban spam but the commercial weight of the U.S. spammers is often enough to persuade small ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to adopt a less-than-responsible attitude. The spammers offer the Chinese service providers about US$100 a week-–more than they usually make in a month-–to host the sites and ignore the complaints they receive.

China is also adopting broadband at a phenomenal rate and it now has more subscribers than Japan, making the country an attractive proposition for bulk mailers.

The next country Linford would like to see on the spam-fighting agenda is Russia. "In China, there's an authority – Chinese government, ministers you can speak to. In Russia, it's more like the Wild West –-there are so many criminals. It's a weird job to figure it out," he said

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