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Another Millionaire Spammer Story

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  • All spammers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by YorkshireONE (307613) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:01PM (#4732618) Homepage
    To me spammers are as disruptive to internet growth and society as virus\trojan etc creators.
    • Re:All spammers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sketerpot (454020) <sketerpot@COLAgmail.com minus caffeine> on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:06PM (#4732659)
      They are disruptive in many of the same ways. They take advantage of other people's resources, and naive users are the ones who keep both going.

      They cause people to distrust each other. I am very cautious about giving a web site my email address for fear that it will be abused.

      They both make email less pleasant.

      Their creators all seem to be unremorseful. If only we could send viruses and trojans to them all.

      • by Evil Adrian (253301) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:28PM (#4732852) Homepage
        When legislation doesn't work, sheer violence might. I say enough's enough, let's beat these people up.
        • "With all the money we're making from this movie, we could buy a lot of plane tickets..."
          How many people wanna kick some ass...

          Of course, we'd try for that but end up with "Tellem Steve-Dave!"
        • Re:All spammers (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:42PM (#4733629)
          How about if everyone in the Detroit area who hates spam would find the guy's address, go to his house, and go up and ring the doorbell. When he answers ask him if he wants to buy something. Strive to make the product annoyingly inane. Make the price exhorbitant so that he can't call your bluff and agree to buy your product. If enough people do this, and they space themselves out, time wise, so that he can just get settled in from answering the door before the next ring of the doorbell, the annoyance level can be maximized. Best of all, it roughly duplicates the annoyance of spam.
          • by SScorpio (595836) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:54PM (#4733732)
            Hmm... quite close to my home... I prefer following his car around and loading the windshield with flyers, and also start collecting junk mail for this mailbox. Maybe some Amway people should also try hitting him up.
            • Re:All spammers (Score:5, Interesting)

              by SScorpio (595836) on Friday November 22, 2002 @03:00PM (#4733776)

              Ohh... I though of something even more evil.

              The local news stations here all have "Problem Solver" segments where people call in problems about corrupt builders not finishing jobs, city works slacking off and not doing their jobs, etc.

              With spam being as big an issue I would be surprised if one of the 5 stations teams took it on. It would be interesting to get him on the news and have the people bugging him about why he thinks it ok to do what he's doing. They also do lots of calls to the people, and track them down as they run for their vehicles.

              Now to only find his address.

    • by LostCluster (625375) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:18PM (#4732747)
      Nah, spammers actually spur Internet growth.

      Think of all the legit system admins who spend hours cleaning out overloaded systems, and programmers who develop anti-spam solutions for both networks and users, and additonal bandwith that needs to be purchased so that legit traffic can move past all the spam.

      The fact is, the more spam annoys people, the more they're willing to pay us to make it go away.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:04PM (#4733217)
      We know where this one lives. Let's go kill him.

      Of course, this is a joke. Surely there isn't a single person who reads Slashdot who has been so annoyed by spam that they would go so far as to kill him and burn down his house. Nope. Nobody like that. Even if that person would almost certainly be able to escape punishment if even a tiny amount of forethought were used in the attempt. After all, Virginia police couldn't even catch a homeless muslim sniper after multiple shootings; what are the odds they'll catch some geek who is actually paying attention to not leave any evidence behind?

      Of course, this really is a joke. And everyone reading it should take it as a joke. Except for that one very special person. Yes, you my friend. You know what you must do...
    • To me spammers are as disruptive to internet growth and society as virus\trojan etc creators.

      Actually, according to the article, I don't see much distinction:

      Ralsky has other ways to monitor the success of his campaigns. Buried in every e-mail he sends is a hidden code that sends back a message every time the e-mail is opened.

      And then later:

      "You don't have to be on a Web site at all. You can just have your computer on, connected to the Internet, reading e-mail or just idling and, bam, this program detects your presence and up pops the message on your screen, past firewalls, past anti-spam programs, past anything.

      So, let me get this straight. This guy sends a trojan to 250 million people per day, is actively working on intruding onto protected computer systems, and he lives in a $750,000 house? People who do those things out of intellectual curiousity get incarcerated, but this guy lives it up!? WTF? Between this guy, MS, Cisco, et. al., I am beginning to wonder if it's even possible to make an honest living in this world anymore!

  • dammit (Score:3, Funny)

    by i_need_no_nick (577071) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:01PM (#4732623) Homepage
    damn spammers :(

    I lose more cool email addresses that way...

  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:01PM (#4732626)
    This is a great way to increase spam by showing all these success stories! Keep up the great work! :)
    • From the article:

      Ralsky agreed to this interview and the tour of his operation only if I promised not to print the address of his new home, which I found in Oakland County real estate records.

      Would anyone care to visit the Oakland County Land Titles Office?

    • Re:Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mindragon (627249) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:34PM (#4732931) Journal
      As usual, there aren't any articles about updating SMTP standards that would eliminate spam. Rather, there are articles or comments going pro or con about the spam issue. If a number of people were to work together cooperatively and collaboratively to develop a secure mail transport protocol that would eliminate spam, we could see the demise of spam three years from today. Instead, we spend our time on petty bickering and foolish banter.
      • Re:Great! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Arcturax (454188) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:10PM (#4733287)
        Thank goodness, someone else out there with some sense. I've been wondering this since back in the mid 90's when Spam first reared its ugly head. Why don't we move to secure the system and no longer allow spoofing of email?

        Another thing that could be done is to figure out where this guy's 190 email servers are and publish a block list for ISP's to simply refuse any data from the ISP's who are letting this man do what he is doing.

        If ISP's start cutting off all data from known spam sources, that will help cut back on the problem greatly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:03PM (#4732643)
    "Alan Ralsky's brand new 8,000-square-foot luxury home near Halsted and Maple in West Bloomfield has been a busy place this month. Outside, landscapers worked against the November cold to get a sprinkler system installed before the ground freezes. Inside, painters prepared to hang wallpaper."

    an angry mob will teach him to stop spamming us

    • Re:damn spammers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by suman28 (558822) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (82namus)> on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:44PM (#4733023)
      When people see that you can buy 8000-sq ft homes, this only encourages others to do the same. He truly is not doing any thing illegal and I think that's where the problem is. Why not write to your congressman/congresswoman and see if you can get legislation passed. That would be more helpful in the long run.
  • spam shark (Score:5, Funny)

    by ciscoeng (411359) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:05PM (#4732655)
    FTC> *knocking*

    Spammer> "Who is it?"

    FTC> "Flowers"

    Spammer> "What?"

    FTC> "Pizza delivery"

    Spammer> "Oh. Ok."

    Spammer> "Hey, you're that spam shark, aren't you?
  • ethical?? (Score:5, Funny)

    by chef_raekwon (411401) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:07PM (#4732664) Homepage
    "I don't do any porn or sexual messages," he said, citing a..

    can't say I've ever heard of an "ethical" spammer.....

    sounds like an oxymoron to me...
  • by Cap'n Canuck (622106) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:07PM (#4732665)
    Yet Another Spammer Story, as if we haven't heard enough.

    I recently saw the "Bart gets a job as a bartender for the Mob" episode. The episode ended with
    Bart: "I realize now that crime doesn't pay"
    Fat Tony: "Yeah, I guess you're right"
    At which point Fat Tony and his entourage leave in several strech limos.

    The only point of posting stories like these seems to be:
    1) enraging /. readers to a frenzy
    2) proving that crime DOES pay.

    Why bother?
    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:28PM (#4732857)
      Why bother?


      Truth, maybe? I don't like it, but it seems useful to know the old line "Spamming doesn't work" isn't true. It provides motivation to find a true solution to the problem. Spamming *does* pay, but as a phenominal pain in the tail, we should look for ways to make it uneconomical.
    • Hey, nobody died (Score:3, Insightful)

      by melonman (608440)

      proving that crime DOES pay.

      It isn't a crime in most places. If everyone wants spam to be illegal, sure, I'll vote for it. But I really don't think it is the most serious antisocial behaviour on the Internet at present. I'd put viruses and DoS attacks a lot higher, for example, and I don't think I'm alone in this.

      Spam is annoying, but is it actually that serious?

      • Soon spam will swamp everything else. The very article that claimed this [slashdot.org] states that One-third of the 30 billion e-mails sent worldwide each day are spam. In other words, 2 emails out of three aren't. If my postman could guarantee that 2 envelopes out of 3 that land in my letterbox will be sollicited, I'd be very happy.
      • Spam uses server resources. Yes, but when ISPs talk about reducing bandwidth in other ways, for example by capping user allocations, everyone on /. says how pointless this is when bandwidth is so cheap. So is it cheap or not?
      • Spam costs the user money. Yes, but the cost of downloading a spam is minute compared with the cost in lost productivity of an employee reading a joke email, or even this posting. If 99.75% of spams never get opened (and quite a lot of those never even get to the user's inbox), the amount of wasted time they account for probably isn't huge.

      OK, spam is not a good thing, but aren't we getting a little carried away here? Personally, I find website pop-ups much more annoying than spam, especially when they crash Mozilla...

  • Right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by skirch (126930) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:08PM (#4732682) Homepage
    "I'll never quit," said the 57-year-old master of spam. "I like what I do. This is the greatest business in the world."

    I like what I do, even though I have to hide from everyone, use unlisted numbers, and pretend like it's not bothering anyone. It's truly the greatest business in the world. And the dog feces that keep coming in the mail don't bother me that much, either.

  • by 3.5 stripes (578410) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:09PM (#4732685)
    Find that T1 line.

    Step #2 hire some blackhats to turn the entire center into a bunch of machines with blank disks.

    Step #3 Repeat as necessary

    I've got $20 in my hand that I'd give to that effort in a second.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:12PM (#4732708)
      One of the more noble reasons why someone on this site is typing with only one hand... :-)
    • Re:Ok, Step # 1 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sylver Dragon (445237)
      I've got $20 in my hand that I'd give to that effort in a second.

      I'm sure I've got a spare $20 around here somewhere.

      Though I would also be happy to see someone throw a firebomb in this guy's new house. This idiot is very pleased with himself, and is completely remorseless, maybe its time to show him why you don't piss off a mob.
      Sadly, in the end I don't think there is anything we can really do to stop him. Sure, it might be possible to find and wipe his system, but what good would it do? I'm sure this guy backs up his lists constantly, and if he has half a clue, he probably has all of his servers imaged/ghosted. He'd be spamming again within the day.
      As for the firebomb idea, while it would give me a warm fuzzy feeling to see this guy made to pay for being a parasite on the internet, please no one do it. All its going to do is hurt his home owner's insurance company, not him. Not to mention that it really is a bad way to deal with the problem.
      What we need to do is start pushing laws that will prohibit this sort of BS. Sure it'll be an uphill battle, and there will probably be a large number of laws that get killed by the courts, but all we need is for 1 good federal anti-spam law to stick, and we win. Look at the fight to enforce filtering in libraries, they have lost a dozen times, but they keep passing more laws. Eventually, the courts are going to let one of them stand, its just a matter of time and patience. That is what we really need to do, we need to get us a couple of senetors to start introducing anti-spam legislation, and getting it passed. Eventually something will pass, and the courts will let it stand, then we'll be able to shut this idiot down.
      So, instead of spending your $20 getting this idiot's system wiped for less than a day, we should start pooling that money to buy a senetor. It worked for Disney.

  • by bwalling (195998) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:09PM (#4732689) Homepage
    As much as everyone complains about spam, it's not going anywhere. The reason? It works. It's the same problem that all of the new invasive advertising (ads superimposed on football fields during games, etc) has.

    As much as everyone complains about it, there are sufficient people who respond to the advertising and buy the products. As long as that happens, spam will continue.
    • by wass (72082) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:42PM (#4733000)
      That's why sane people should try avoiding all offers by spam mail, telemarketers, etc. A few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were thinking about getting dsl and cable tv to set up in our new house, and we got a telemarketer call us about an obscure provider (i forget if it was cable or dsl). She thought the offer sounded reasonable, and was thinking of following up on it (by calling them back at some other number of course, only give your info if you call them, never if they call you). But I adamantly refused to go along with any offer of spam/telemarketing.

      I have a feeling that if we ever bought a product from a telemarketer, we'd be put on the 'sucker' list and get bombarded with even more telemarketing. Maybe same thing with spam, if they could somehow track my purchase to my email address (harder than with telemarketers).

      Of course, as it is now, telemarketers already establish your pattern of when you're in the house by when you answer the phone. Do you semi-regularly get phone calls with no one on the other line? Large chance that is usually a telemarketing autodialer. Maybe with a telemarketer to be eventually connected to you (have you noticed the few second delay before you get them online?), or maybe it's just the autodialer. There was a point last year where I was studying and didn't feel like getting the phone, and the thin literally rang once every 10 minutes, for over an hour and a half! Of course, my girlfriend's caller ID showed the standard 'out of area'.

      Well, enough rambling, but I refuse to EVER buy from a spammer or telemarketer, no matter how good the deals seem to be.

  • by xchino (591175) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:10PM (#4732694)
    I hope the bastard slips up and get his ass sued off. Or better yet his customers get sued. This guy is a millionaire because spam works for companies who sell this crap and pay him to spam us with it. I imagine I'd have a hard time selling pills to enlarge your penis or free xxx pornsite passwords door to door. In fact I'd probably be arrested, especially after I tried to make the sale to a minor who answered the door. I don't see how e-mail should be any different.
  • by curtisk (191737) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:11PM (#4732698) Homepage Journal
    Hey, they guy is just making a buck right? (actually alot of bucks), would I do this.....probably not. But, until there is software to monitor mass mailings, I say, good for them, make their money while they can....

    why hasn't there been software that would watch incoming messages, and say if > 10,000 messages come thru with the same subject line, flip those over to a "suspect" pile for administrator review, yeah yeah I know admins don't have the time to look thru the msgs, but there will either have to be a regulation on spam so its easily identifiable (header) or software to weed them out adequately, there are some out there.....but how well do they work?

    otherwise, guys like this will cash in and live large while, we whine about what a scumbag he/she is.... :)

    • For crying out loud! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Moderation abuser (184013) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:02PM (#4733200)
      There is software to stop mass mailings. It's just that there are loads of dumb schmucks out there who haven't bothered to see if anything actually exists to do the job.

      Course, it's the same dumb schmucks who get all the spam mail, which suits me just fine.

      The *real* problem is all these bloody spam stories on Slashdot. You only get spam these days because you want spam or are too dumb to do anything about it...

      http://pyzor.sourceforge.net/
      http://razor.sour ceforge.net/
      http://www.rhyolite.com/anti-spam/dc c/
      http://www.spamassassin.org/
      http://www.zanth an.com/itymbi/archives/000656.html

      etc etc etc etc.

  • by debest (471937) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:12PM (#4732705)
    "This is even better," he said. "You don't have to be on a Web site at all. You can just have your computer on, connected to the Internet, reading e-mail or just idling and, bam, this program detects your presence and up pops the message on your screen, past firewalls, past anti-spam programs, past anything.

    "Isn't technology great?"


    Firstly, can anyone envision what could possibly do this? Does your browser have to be trojoned to accomplish this feat? Could it be an IE-only kind of design bug?

    Secondly, if he does manage this, he'd better do a better job of hiding his location, because he's about to piss off a *lot* of people with this stunt!
    • by EatHam (597465) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:21PM (#4732769)
      Firstly, can anyone envision what could possibly do this? Does your browser have to be trojoned to accomplish this feat? Could it be an IE-only kind of design bug?

      I can envision what would do this - there's been stories about this already. It's those popup messages that come up from Windows Messenger. Easy enough to turn off and block, but most people don't.
    • Firstly, can anyone envision what could possibly do this?

      The MS windows messaging service. With knowledge of an IP, you can send a message a computer that's just sitting on the network, with no software aside from the system + middleware running.

      You can turn off the service, use any one of a dozen windows software firewalls, or just uninstall the bugger if you don't use it.
    • by pbranes (565105) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:25PM (#4732816)
      Here is the entire quote

      Ralsky, meanwhile, is looking at new technology. Recently he's been talking to two computer programmers in Romania who have developed what could be called stealth spam. It is intricate computer software, said Ralsky, that can detect computers that are online and then be programmed to flash them a pop-up ad, much like the kind that display whenever a particular Web site is opened. "This is even better," he said. "You don't have to be on a Web site at all. You can just have your computer on, connected to the Internet, reading e-mail or just idling and, bam, this program detects your presence and up pops the message on your screen, past firewalls, past anti-spam programs, past anything.

      I seriously doubt that this guy has some new revolutionary technology that will allow him to force ads to pop up no matter what we are doing. This sounds like the typical spyware that comes with kazaa and other similar programs. There is a great cure for this: Ad-Aware [lavasoftusa.com]. This could also be the IE bug that was mentioned on slashdot yesterday [slashdot.org].

      Whatever this guy is talking about, it can be easily defeated by ad-aware, using mozilla, or disabling activex in IE.

    • by b1t r0t (216468) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:26PM (#4732825)
      Firstly, can anyone envision what could possibly do this? Does your browser have to be trojoned to accomplish this feat? Could it be an IE-only kind of design bug?

      All you need is a certain popular insecure operating system, which has this "feature" turned on by default, so you can see when your network print job finishes, etc.

      This is one of the many wonderful reasons why I run OS X and Linux at home.

  • by Cutriss (262920) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:14PM (#4732716) Homepage
    I remember people mentioning this a few /. articles back when we were talking about an effective way to stop spammers and Bernard Shifman...by reporting them to the Chinese government.

    Earlier this month, said Ralsky, somebody told the Chinese government that a Web company from which he leases e-mail servers in Beijing was sending messages critical of Chinese policy.

    Police promptly raided the business and confiscated Ralsky's servers. Although they were returned a few days later, Ralsky now tries to cover his tracks better, so opponents won't know what companies and servers he's using.

    Linford said he heard of the raid. "It wasn't us that caused it," he said. "But there are a lot of anti-spam activists, and apparently some of them on their own started organizing a campaign to get the Chinese government to think that Ralsky was supporting" the Falun Gong, an outlawed spiritual group the Chinese government considers subversive. "We didn't endorse that, but it shows you how deep the anti-Ralsky feelings are."


    If that worked, maybe we can find someone with a much *longer* reach to take him down.

    We need to start reporting him as a terrorist to the FBI. We know how pushy they can be. :) As was mentioned in the Buckeye case from last night, they'll steal^H^H^H^H^Hconfiscate all his equipment during the "investigation"...
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:12PM (#4733318)
      > > [Chinese] Police promptly raided the business and confiscated Ralsky's servers. Although they were returned a few days later, Ralsky now tries to cover his tracks better, so opponents won't know what companies and servers he's using.
      >
      >If that worked, maybe we can find someone with a much *longer* reach to take him down.
      >
      >We need to start reporting him as a terrorist to the FBI. We know how pushy they can be. :)

      Yeah. I'm kinda amazed that it worked, but I suppose with the number of people doing it, someone would get lucky. Alas, unlike American cops, when the Chinese cops raid a place and steal its equipment, they give it back. Who'dathunk that?

      Yo, Charlie Chan, that's not how you're supposed to play the game! When you raid a shop for its computers, you're supposed to keep the damn computers! Duh!

      (Obviously they haven't been taking their lessons from the FBI seriously, or the Chinese Communist dictatorship, because it has no concept of private property, has yet to invent asset forfeiture laws yet :-)

      A Modest Proposal, then:

      For every blocked spam delivery attempt, bounce every Ralsky spam with:

      "550 - Allahu Akbar! - Islamohash detected - responding with segment #12345 - FJAKC RLXCJ VOHSA COPQM JJWOZ"

      Every day, plus or minus a few hours, randomly regenerate the pro-Arab slogan. (The idea is that it's supposed to look like an SMTP server is responding to the hashbusters *in* Ralsky's spam, and responding with a segment of a coded message.)

      Then, for every 550 message, increment the message segment number, and randomly generate blocks of random characters.

      Sit back and wait. If Fedz show up on your doorstep, supply with donuts (the good kind, damnit!) and show 'em the script that generates 'em randomly. And give 'em a laptop for their troubles.

      If Fedz show up on Ralsky's doorstep, write letter to Congressman requesting that the US government authorize the use of any and all means of torture on terror suspects. Laugh maniacally as spam problem goes away. And I mean far away.

      As for what to do with Ralsky once he's been disappeared for supporting terrorism, I have another Modest Proposal:

      1) Lock Ralsky in cell with a laptop and a 2400-baud modem.
      2) He can eat his meals and quaff his drinks if and only if he replies with "Yes, I'd like to eat today!" to an email written by someone (a different person each day) working in the prison kitchen.
      3) Post his email address to USENET in alt.make.money.fast.
      4) If he objects that he can't find the chow-time email with the Subject: line of "Hi!" or "Let's do lunch!" message amidst the spam... well, it's just e-mail, can't he Just Hit Delete?
      5) Install a webcam in the cell and sell subscriptions to live streaming webcasts of Ralsky writhing in agony as convulsions from hunger and thirst wrack his body.
      6) ...
      (and I hope "..." lasts for weeks, whether there are any subscribers to the webcasts or not)
      7) Profit!

      And just to show you I'm not a total softie when it comes to dealing with spammers, then go all Vlad-the-Impaler on him in front of Verio headquarters, as an example to the others.

  • by drew_kime (303965) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:14PM (#4732717) Homepage Journal
    Ralsky, meanwhile, is looking at new technology. Recently he's been talking to two computer programmers in Romania who have developed what could be called stealth spam.


    It is intricate computer software, said Ralsky, that can detect computers that are online and then be programmed to flash them a pop-up ad, much like the kind that display whenever a particular Web site is opened.

    "This is even better," he said. "You don't have to be on a Web site at all. You can just have your computer on, connected to the Internet, reading e-mail or just idling and, bam, this program detects your presence and up pops the message on your screen, past firewalls, past anti-spam programs, past anything.

    "Isn't technology great?"

    First of all no, this is not great. Second, as soon as he talks about intentionally bypassing a firewall, I start thinking that that sounds suspiciously like "circumventing an access control" which, I believe, is no longer legal.
    • This kind of "stealth spam" he's talking about sounds a lot like the Microsoft Messenger Service spam that we've already seen, and dealt with by closing those ports off to outside traffic.
  • by iamwoodyjones (562550) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:15PM (#4732723) Journal
    Here's more information on this scum bag:
    scum bag info [spamhaus.org]
    I'm still looking for the physical adress of his *new* home/data center. If anyone finds it as well as his phone number, or his email *he* uses. Post it!

  • It boils down to (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gTsiros (205624) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:15PM (#4732727)
    Anyone can be rich, no matter how big an asshole he is.

    But this guy is so big an asshole that the goatse.cx guy must be feeling embarASSed.

    The poster should be modded -1:troll for posting such goatse-cx like stories to /. !!!
  • by Bonker (243350) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:15PM (#4732728)
    A spammer was hit by a bus. He, like all spammers, descended into hell, where he was met by a large, read minataur creature with huge, dripping horns.

    "Hi!" the spammer greeted him. "There must have been some mistake. I wasn't supposed to go here. I was expecting to meet Saint Peter and pass through the pearly gates."

    "TREMBLE, MORTAL SINNER, BEFORE THE UNHOLY TERROR THAT IS BEELZEBUB, LORD OF THE SEVENTH CIRCLE OF HELL!" the demon replied. "ABANDON ALL HOPE AS YOU BEGIN TO REAP WHAT YOU HAVE SOWN!"

    "Can't I go to heaven?" the spammer asked, quite sure that he had not really done anything worthy of eternal damnation.

    "Sure," the demon replied in conversational tones. "But first you have to work off all the spam you sent. Millions and millions of emails, right?"

    The spammer nodded, happy that he wasn't going to be confined to darkness and torment for all time. "What do I have to do?"

    "These," the demon said, pointing to a endless field of paper stacked yards tall, "are printouts off all the spam you've ever sent. You must dispose of it all before you can leave this place."

    "How do I dispose of it?" the spammer asked, somehwhat apprehensive about his task.

    "I'll show you," the dmeon replied. "Bend over and pull your pants down..."
  • by phritz (623753) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:17PM (#4732739)
    I hope everyone noticed that, although the author promised not to give out the spammer's address, he conveniently told us exactly how to find it.

    But, you know, it sure would be a shame if some /.er in the Oakland area were to go get that address. . . and a real shame if s/he decided to post that address here. I mean, what good could that possibly serve?

  • by Violet Null (452694) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:18PM (#4732744)
    That the reporter doesn't really like spammers either, don't you? Consider this quote:

    Today, Ralsky says he is trying to keep a lower profile, operating through cell phones and unlisted numbers. Ralsky agreed to this interview and the tour of his operation only if I promised not to print the address of his new home, which I found in Oakland County real estate records.

    Or, in other words, "I promised not to reveal the address, but if you want to look it up, here's how to do so..."
  • What a crook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dh003i (203189) <dh003i@nOspaM.gmail.com> on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:19PM (#4732752) Homepage Journal
    This guy's obviously a crook. Kicked out of his previous profession for illegal behaviour. Sorry, what he does is not legal -- its stealing. He steals MY bandwidth, which I paid good money for. I have to download his crap mail wasting MY TIME and MY BANDWIDTH. But the solution to this is simple: make a comprehensive e-mail address list of all people you know, and have your e-mail program delete (or download only the header of) anything which isn't from someone you know.

    As for pop-up ads and other crap, you can prevent that by a host file. I currently have images.slashdot.org on my hostfile, along with the locations of other sites that slashdot banners come from. I see no ads on Yahoo, CNET, DOWNLOAD.com, WSJ.com, MSN.com, etc. Other things to do are to disable playing sounds or animations, and to remove Flash from you're computer. As a last resort, you can just disable images altogether.

    The technology that this crook described which would flash pop-ups to people connected to the internet is also illegal -- it steals MY resources (my RAM, my CPU time, my GPU power, etc). The way to stop that is to refuse non-requested pop-ups or other such information, to close off ports, and to install a firewall.
    • You don't see a whole lot of European spam, do you? This sort of thing could be why:

      http://www.dataprotection.gov.uk/principl.htm [dataprotection.gov.uk]

      Note the .gov.uk domain; that page is a quick summary of British data protection law. This is Britain's implementation of a European Union law (I posted the British one because it's in English :-)

      Theft of something as insubstantial as bandwidth and CPU time is difficult to build a case around, but what would happen to spammers if the USA had this sort of law? Never mind the spam, they obviously have a large pile of personally identifiable information - if selling your CDs of e-mail addresses is illegal (because they're being used for purposes other than the one they were collected for), there goes the address sharing for a start.
  • by ictatha (201773) <mike@nOsPam.nepsystems.com> on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:20PM (#4732761)
    You gotta love this reporter... From the article:

    "Ralsky agreed to this interview and the tour of his operation only if I promised not to print the address of his new home, which I found in Oakland County real estate records."

    So he *didn't* publish the address, just told you where to find it. Good stuff! I don't know what this says about the reporter's integrity, but in this case I think we can let that go. :)
  • by asv108 (141455) <alex@[ ]taudio.org ['pha' in gap]> on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:22PM (#4732779) Homepage Journal
    Just because someone has an expensive house or drives a nice car, doesn't mean they have a net worth of a million dollars. One can have very little in the way of assets but can still get mortgages and auto loans. Generally, people who emphasize how much their possessions cost, are the type of people who bought everything on credit. Considering this guy has filed for personal bankruptcy before, he is probably highly leveraged.

    Spam is obviously a profitable activity and the writer of the article is trying to emphasize the "millionaire" aspect, but I doubt this guy is a true millionaire.

    • by meringuoid (568297) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:26PM (#4732829)
      Just because someone has an expensive house or drives a nice car, doesn't mean they have a net worth of a million dollars. One can have very little in the way of assets but can still get mortgages and auto loans.

      Yes, Ralsky's been bankrupt and has a terrible credit rating. But he refinanced and got a good deal on a mortgage loan, and now he makes $$$ in a profitable home business.

  • by SnoooBob2k (620644) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:22PM (#4732787)

    Has anyone ever considered organizing a directed attack on known spammers? It seems to me that if I have to spend time deleting penis enlargement spam emails and forwarding them onto ucef@ftc.gov, I am losing productivity which in turn costs money.

    Considering that that govt in the US is condsidering allowing recording companies to infect P2P networks legally, why shouldn't the same rights be given to a coalition of ordinary people to do directed attacks on spammers and their ISPs who little about the problem?

  • by Inoshiro (71693) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:24PM (#4732803) Homepage
    There's always a bit of a lag as law catches up to society. Sure, some people are duped by email, but some people would also like to burn black people on giant crosses for the crime of being born with a certain skin colour.

    We have laws against the burning of people based on skin colour, why aren't there laws stopping spammers yet? Just because you can do something, even to the point of making money at it, it does not mean that it is ethical or moral to do!
  • by airrage (514164) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:26PM (#4732832) Homepage Journal
    I'm starting to think real hard about Spam. Inspired, much to my chagrin, by the recent articles concerning AOLs CD spamming campaign. I firmly believe when we wipe ourselves from this rock, and our ruined civilization is discovered, that alien archeologists will assume that an AOL CD is a religious artifact. But I keep thinking about this article, trying to determine why am I really angry. Partly, I'm upset because this person is making alot of money while I'm at work. Partly it's jealousy. I'm conflicted, that hell yes, if you can make 200K+ a year spamming then count me in; and yet, I've been on the net for a while now, before it got really popular, and I also have some of that old code of ethics with me.

    But at least I have to hand it to this person, at least he's got some morals, or so he says. And at least Spam is environmentally friendly -- it doesn't affect the groundwater or the air I breathe.

    And that's a big point. It reminds me that yes, it's upsetting, but at least it's not a lingering mess, environmentally. It's not a SuperFund site.

    I'm reminded of Air-Mail delivery in this country. Airplanes were paid by the pound for mail, so more often than not, they would stuff the US mail bags with rocks to make more money. That's the essence of the point: we realize that there is money to be made in bulk. Pay by the pound, all-you-can-eat, spam-o-rama, and hope that just one sucker is out there.

    The other point this article brings to light for me is the fact that, for the most part, we humans are actually brighter than I thought. The spam rate is horrendous. Something like 2 in a big-freaking-number. So Spam is casting a very wide net to catch a few sardines. I think that is quite a boost to our combined egos. We aren't as dumb as we behave in traffic.

    I know many will make the point that it's clogging routers, servers, and generally a waste of time, but it's a grey area whether that's hard or soft dollars. What's the cost of one more email?

    But we can change this. Why can't email be like instant messaging where only those on my buddy list can email me. The Spammer would have to guess my email address and some complicated guid to send me email.

    So for me, at least until they change the SMTP/POP RFC to allow for end-user authentication, I'm okay with spam ... and frankly that scares me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:27PM (#4732845)
    I live about 60 miles west of this guy. I wonder what I should get him for Christmas now, because the poop-on-the-doorstep thing has already been done.
  • by Vicegrip (82853) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:29PM (#4732871) Journal
    "Ralsky acknowledges that his success with spam arose out of a less-than-impressive business background. In 1992, while in the insurance business, he served a 50-day jail term for a charge arising out of the sale of unregistered securities. And in 1994, he was convicted of falsifying documents that defrauded financial institutions in Michigan and Ohio and ordered to pay $74,000 in restitution."

    I wonder how rich he'd be if he had to pay for all the bandwidth he's ripped from ISP mailservers.
  • by Kenny Austin (319525) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:32PM (#4732896) Homepage
    >Buried in every e-mail he sends is a hidden code that sends back a message every time the e-mail is opened.

    Web Bugs [216.239.53.100] are the largest reason I dont view html email messages.


    >...that can detect computers that are online and then be programmed to flash them a pop-up ad

    I remember reading about this on slashdot.org awhile back and thinking "crazy", but would someone really waste the time/effort to port scan millions of computers just to send a winpopup? Then it came one day. "Ding!" and my game starts to flicker back to Windows. "What the?!?.. oh." Messenger service got turned off ten seconds later.


    Kenny
  • by Daetrin (576516) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:33PM (#4732912)
    Almost every single one of these articles includes the name of the spammer. I'm just waiting for the followup article about one of these featured spammers describing how they got the crap beat out of them a la Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, or waking up one night to find a stack of old servers burning in their front yard or soemthing.
  • by bje2 (533276) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:33PM (#4732914)
    "There are probably about 150 major spammers who are responsible for 90 percent of all the spam everyone gets"

    does this remind anyone else of the columbian drug cartels?...sure drugs are everywhere, but a small number of columbian drug cartels are responsible for a large portion of the world's drug traffic...another similarity, we're fighting losing battles against spammers and drugs...we're not making up any ground...

    seriously though, why can't some senator or congressman introduce a tough anti-spam bill...does spammers have a strong political lobby like the NRA or big Tobbacco does?...then again, i guess the result would be the same as in this article, spammers would just move more of their actual operations overseas...oh well...
  • by Accipiter (8228) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:35PM (#4732943)
    Ralsky agreed to this interview and the tour of his operation only if I promised not to print the address of his new home, which I found in Oakland County real estate records.

    Yeah because, you know, he wouldn't want a bunch of unsolicited visitors annoying him and being a pain in the ass. And more and more would just end up showing up, enough to cause him a big headache, and creating problems in his attempts to get his daily activites done.

    Sound familiar, asshole? Fucking lowlife spammers.
  • by Hollinger (16202) <michael.hollinger@net> on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:36PM (#4732947) Homepage Journal
    I must admit, I'm curious about this "stealth spam" thing he mentioned. What could it be? Are those sneaky Europeans writing some sort of elaborate VB proggie that exploits Windows Messaging Services? I admit that I've seen one of those pop up once on a friend's machine; we then promptly disabled the messaging service.

    Come to think of it, Messaging really should be disabled by default on XP Home, and possibly XP Pro.
  • A solution? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by trikberg (621893) <{trikberg} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:40PM (#4732989)
    As I see it there are about 500 000 parties to a spam e-mail: the company that pays for it, the person that is payed for collecting adresses and sending the mail, 10 persons that are happy to get the unique offer and spend money on it, and about 499 988 victims. To stop spam, one group has to be removed from the equation.

    The only way to remove the 499 988 innocent victim is for them to stop using e-mail: not a viable solution. Using e-mail filters may temporarily turn the flood into a stream, but mailers will refine their mail to avoid these sooner rather than later.

    The persons getting payed are not going to stop. Legislation against spammers would only move the senders to other countries.

    The entities paying will continue as long as it is profitable. Again: legislation would not be effective, IMHO.

    The only remaining possibility is to remove the 10 morons paying. How to do that? Barring evolution (accelerated by selective violence >:) ), education of the these people seems the only possibility.

    Making everyone understand that buying penile enlargement medicaiton online, is not the best of ideas is not as easy as it sounds. There'll always be someone who thinks it's the best invention since sliced bread. Can the percentage be pushed below the treshold of profitability? I don't think so.
  • You know... (Score:5, Funny)

    by segfault7375 (135849) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:41PM (#4732992)

    Instead of Spam Assissin, maybe what we need is Spammer Assissin :)
  • by swb (14022) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:47PM (#4733059)
    The FTC, states' Attorneys General and other crimefighting organizations need to start going after the fraud that's behind almost every single SPAM message I've ever seen. The spammers (the people sending the email) are almost always hard to get to, but in order for the whole thing to be worth it there must be some way to get to the sellers, otherwise they couldn't collect money from the rubes that reply.

    Why can't we get law enforcement to start nailing the scam artists responsible for the spam being generated in the first place? I mean, putting guys in *jail*, big civil fines, and so on.

    We can bitch all we want about the clowns sending email, but if the fraudsters were starting to get locked up on a frequent, regular basis it would dry up the market for spammers and they'd move on to something else.

    AND if we bitch too long about spam, we're liable to end up with some icky government mandated "system" about email -- how would you like to have to get a license from the government to run an email service? It's to prevent spam, you know...

  • by Joey Patterson (547891) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:50PM (#4733092)
    A simpole Yahoo! People Search [yahoo.com] reveals that there is indeed an Alan Ralsky in West Bloomfield, MI (search results are here [yahoo.com]). Looks like he's got two phone lines (presumably one for home and one for work), and he apparently has a couple of Yahoo e-mail addresses [yahoo.com] as well. Send him your spam.
  • by RealityProphet (625675) on Friday November 22, 2002 @01:50PM (#4733094)

    The reason spam is so prolific is because it is CHEAP. It costs next to nothing to send a message out. But it got me thinking: is this the right solution?

    What if we were charged for the emails that we sent? I don't know anyone that sends out more than 1,000 emails a month, so what if ISPs charged a LOT for sending out more than 1,000 emails per month? Would this work in eliminating spam? Would it be helpful?

    • No, no, no, no. Oh...did I say NO.

      Charging for email is NOT the solution.
      1. Even at a threshold of 1000. So he breaks up his sending into lumps of 999.
      2. You then screw all the listservs, hobby groups, non-profits, etc, etc.
      3. Junk snailmail costs, and you still get that, right?
      4. So it costs. Cut down his profit by 50%, and he STILL makes money. And sends out twice as many.
      5. He hijacks some unsuspecting user, and uses THEIR act to send it. THEY get the bill.

      No. The answer is...get him on something else. Deceptive marketing, tax evasion, misuse of telephone services.
      But charging for email screws US, not him.
  • by EvilStein (414640) <spam AT pbp DOT net> on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:04PM (#4733215) Homepage
    1)Gives the FBI other people to go after, besides modem uncappers in Toledo, OH. If the FBI is going to take computers, let them take computers owned by a fucking SPAMMER, not people that uncap cable modems and *don't* spam.

    2)Go after jerks like this guy.. and that other "spam queen." Seize their assets. This is the second story in as many weeks telling how spammers have these nice 1/2 million dollar homes and stuff. Makes it seem rather glorious, doesn't it? Perhaps a law in place would make them look like what they are - thieving criminals that care about nothing but money.
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:08PM (#4733261) Homepage
    Here's a picture [cbsnews.com], from a story about him settling a lawsuit with Verizon last month.
  • by paradesign (561561) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:10PM (#4733280) Homepage
    here [rxpoint.com] its his business, err, "real" business.
  • I've lost it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pollux (102520) <speter@teda[ ]net.eg ['ta.' in gap]> on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:13PM (#4733323) Journal
    Ralsky, meanwhile, is looking at new technology. Recently he's been talking to two computer programmers in Romania who have developed what could be called stealth spam.

    It is intricate computer software, said Ralsky, that can detect computers that are online and then be programmed to flash them a pop-up ad, much like the kind that display whenever a particular Web site is opened.

    "This is even better," he said. "You don't have to be on a Web site at all. You can just have your computer on, connected to the Internet, reading e-mail or just idling and, bam, this program detects your presence and up pops the message on your screen, past firewalls, past anti-spam programs, past anything.

    "Isn't technology great?"

    Okay. I swear, if I was interviewing this guy when he said that, he would have gotten punched in the face. I am one step away from pulling out my 357 and blowing the computer screen to pieces after reading that. For anyone who thinks that this guy should still be allowed to stay in business for complete invasion of someone elses privacy just so that he can have a $750,000 house and live a life of luxury needs to stop huffin' gasoline and prevent our private lives from being invaded further.

    Let me lay down the facts: Spamers steal from other businesses in order to deliver messages cheap. I've said this argument before, and I'll say it again. If you pay the Post Office to deliver a package, between the time it is given to the Post Office and the time it is delivered, it is in the possession of the Post Office 100%. Their handling of it, their processing of it, their delivering of it, is all being paid for by the Post Office. When you pay postage to deliver mail / packages, it is because the Post Office is compensated for all the time it takes to deliver the package.

    Spammers do not do this. They do not pay for the bandwidth that they use up. They do not pay for the storage space on servers that their spam waits on. They do not pay for delivery of the messages beyond what leaves their servers. They STEAL. This guy, and every other single person who thinks that they can make a mint off invading the privacy of one's own home should be thrown in jail.

    This is an outright exploitation of what the internet was set up to be. Stoic advertisements are one thing, because the webpage that a web surfer views is there for free, so the owner of the website is trying to compensate himself for the services he offers. But Spam, as well as this hell-born Son-of-Satan spinoff that our featured spammer friend concocted, is an outright solicitation. Send it all back from which it came, and jail these people who think that this level of exploitation is legal.
  • by chad_r (79875) on Friday November 22, 2002 @02:30PM (#4733512)

    Is it me, or does it seem that most spam pieces slant toward the "pro-business" aspects of it, and take everything they say at face value.

    If a journalist wants to show spammers for what they are, just ask: "Do you relay your mail off of unauthorized open mail servers?" According to Ralsky's record on Spamhaus [spamhaus.org], he does, or did.

    On Aug. 15, Ralsky was interviewed on NPR [npr.org]. It was the typical pary line, about how it's not illegal, and they don't send porn, and they honor removes, etc., all very cheerful. But, once, she asked whether he used "blind relays"....

    Quietly, he answered, "I won't make a comment on that." I wish she would have elaborated on it, because most of the listeners wouldn't have understood that this means hijacking open mail servers, which is generally considered theft of service.

  • by NewbieV (568310) <.victor.abrahams ... .at. .gmail.com.> on Friday November 22, 2002 @03:18PM (#4733953)
    What will make spam and spammers go away? Unfortunately, I don't think there's one 'silver-bullet' solution to the problem (no wisecracks about using the bullet on Ralsky, please ;))

    In part, spam is a technological arms race: spammers use more sophisticated ways of getting their messages out, and anti-spammers counter by developing more advanced ways of blocking them. Building a better mousetrap will only force the mice to get smarter. Hacking is not part of the solution, either: if we complain about legislation permitting corporate hacking, we should refrain from doing it ourselves (it's a moral high ground thing...)

    Part of the spam problem is money: at least a few people have mastered the "1. Send spam 2. ??? 3. Profit!" formula. An article describing "How I got rich in three easy steps" will, unfortunately, inspire at least a few wannabes, which leads to the next part of the problem...

    People. The famous quote that "there's a sucker born every minute" is absolutely true. People can be dumb. People can be greedy. People can be unscrupulous. In an age where someone can blanket the planet with a new get-rich-quick scheme, a pill or cream to enhance sexual prowess, a free vacation to wherever, it's almost guaranteed that their message will find someone who doesn't even hesitate to sign themselves up.

    The final part of the problem is something I've never seen mentioned anywhere else: ego. From the article, it sounds like Ralsky knows exactly what he's doing, and he's reveling in the fact that he's notorious/infamous for being one of the best at doing it.

    So, how to fix the problem? Use not just one, but every tool at our disposal:

    1. Continue developing more sophisticated ways of keeping spam from ever reaching user mailboxes and/or desktops, and try to anticipate how spammers will react in response;

    2. Use the existing laws every country has to deal with fraud. Urge local and/or national prosecutors to go after the big fish, making them examples for the smaller ones. Develop international working groups to attack the problem when spammers move their operations overseas. (okay, that last one's a little optimistic, but hey, at least it's an idea...) Nail the fraudsters, shut down their operations, penalize their profits away. The less profit there is, and the harder it is to keep it, the less people will be tempted to try it;

    3. Educate, educate, educate: spread the word on how to deal with spam (don't click the opt-out link, don't reply to unsubscribe, learn how to keep your e-mail address from being harvested, etc.) On another level, urge the (possibly clueless) people who think it's a good marketing technique that spam just makes them look like every other get-rich-quick artist they hate getting e-mail from.

    4. Marginalize the big fish: the more someone like Ralsky reads about himself in the press or on the Web, the more it feeds his ego. The more dog poop he scrapes off his front steps, the more it eggs him on to keep spamming. Shame and guilt can still be two pretty powerful social-engineering methods, but allowing him to portray himself as a 'victim' of those nasty-evil hackers will only serve to help him and his cause.
  • by alispguru (72689) <(bane) (at) (gst.com)> on Friday November 22, 2002 @03:49PM (#4734213) Journal
    From the article:

    The response rate is the key to the whole operation, said Ralsky. These days, it's about one-quarter of 1 percent.

    Ralsky has other ways to monitor the success of his campaigns. Buried in every e-mail he sends is a hidden code that sends back a message every time the e-mail is opened. About three-quarters of 1 percent of all the messages are opened by their recipients, he said. The rest are deleted.

    He's claiming that one out of three spams that are opened in something that renders HTML get a response. I always knew the unwashed web-browser-email masses were dumb, but not that dumb...
  • by LoRider (16327) on Friday November 22, 2002 @06:48PM (#4735671) Homepage Journal
    A lot folks spout off about creating laws to stop these spammers.

    Do we really want to have our Congressmen/woman making laws regarding the Internet? They don't have a very good track record for making laws period, much less laws dealing with technology. Not to mention the fact that US laws usually only apply to the US, usually.

    I think that the fight needs to be waged at the ISP level. ISP's need to be booting these lowlifes off of their networks. If these people are constantly forced to move servers and get new connections for their servers, it will become unfeasible. We can start with this guys T1. Who provides that T1? File complaints to that provider? Where are his email servers, someone has to be providing access to the 'net for those server. You will be suprised what a few letters can do?

    We don't need to kill anyone or even work that hard to stop these pricks. Just find out where they live and kill them...um... I mean tell their ISPs to either start cutting off connections or else...

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