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Spam Government The Courts News

Texas Goes After Student Spammer 161

A number of people wrote in with this story: "Count Texas in the growing list of states fighting spammers with CAN-SPAM. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed the lawsuits today, charging a University of Texas student (and a cohort in California) with sending out millions of unsolicited commercial emails under the pseudonyms PayPerAction and Leadplex, among others. Spamhaus rates PayPerAction the #4 spammers in the world."
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Texas Goes After Student Spammer

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  • by elecngnr ( 843285 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:53AM (#11360722)
    They still have the death penalty in Texas, right?
    • by isometrick ( 817436 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @10:12AM (#11360902)
      You're telling me! I was just sitting on the can reading Slashdot, and right after the words "Texas Goes After Student ..." I was running out the door flailing with a trail of TP dragging behind me.

      I didn't specifically remember doing anything wrong, but the targeting of the title was a bit too close for my brain in the early morning!

      Damn you, "a number of people", damn you to hell!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      You don't even need the official death penalty. Texas still has the "Needed Killin'" defense for homicide.

      Police: "Why did you shoot him?"
      Guy with gun: (shrug) "Needed killin'"
      Police: "Ok then. Off you go."

    • Yeah, but if he's white he'll be fine.
    • Hells bells!

      Why even wait for some stupid drawn out trial?
      All any good Texan needs is a length of rope
      and a sturdy cottonwood tree ...
      It's not called "Texas Justice" for nothing.
  • How to end Spam... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ralphart ( 70342 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:55AM (#11360745)
    The answer seems simple; get politicians' email addresses on spammers' lists. Once they feel our pain, they'll do something.

    Probably something stupid.
    • by hcdejong ( 561314 )
      Except no politician ever reads his own mail. They have secretaries to filter it for them, so they've no idea about the scope of the spam problem.
      • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @10:30AM (#11361071)
        Actually, most politicians have "secret" personal accounts as well. My wife used to work at capital in DC. The main $congressman@house.gov account is monitored by staff, but there is usually also something nondescript like rxq223@house.gov which goes to them personally.

        You'd also be amazed how many people you have heard of are reachable at some simple variation of $theirname@yahoo.com. When I was helping add a candidate's address book into a database, I had to keep asking if certain entries were a joke. (e.g. "you're kidding, I can mail Janet Reno at janetreno@yahoo.com and it's really her?!?")

        (obviously I made all the email addresses in this post up, so don't try mailing them... :) )

    • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @10:13AM (#11360908)
      The answer seems simple; get politicians' email addresses on spammers' lists. Once they feel our pain, they'll do something.

      1. They probably don't read their own email, if they have an email address. Their families probably do though, which leads to...

      2. In the words of Napoleon Dynamite..."they probably already ARE!" I think it is fairly safe to assume that if you have an email address, you get spam. Period.

      I think that they just have bigger fish to fry.

      • I think it is fairly safe to assume that if you have an email address, you get spam. Period.

        But you shouldn't. It's a clear violation of consumer protection laws.

        Take real world spam: junk mail. I've lived in my current location for less than one year. I've purposely misspelled my address on a number of forms (Holyhock instead of Hollyhock) just so that I could monitor junk mail. I have given the misspelled address to only a handful of places: three banks and my insurance carrier. I asked all of t
        • my dog was pre approved for a $50,000 credit limit from citibank, which seems strange, because he doesn't have a social security number ...

          even more strange, how did his name get on a mailing list? probably my dad's fault ... he signed me up for the republican national committee newsletter. i get all the 'i [heart] gop' cards and pamphelts. no so much anymore, but pre-election is was pretty bad.
          • I got pre-approved by Citibank for a $15,000 card and applied for the card but refused to give them my SSN, claiming they hadn't specified that it was required. They offered me a card with a $500 limit. So much for pre-approved.

            That wouldn't be high enough for my dog, though. He blew through $1200 one year on vet bills (broken leg). He's fine now. Has a stainless steel plate, so I probably can't fly coach with him.
          • by hawk ( 1151 )
            Your dog was alive, at least. I've been offered citibank credit cards at nonexistent addresses (apparent clerical error mixed two former addresses), and to misspellings of variations of my name that only existed on citibank cards . . .

            But the best I've seen was about 1990, when my grandmother received a preapproved gold card offer for her father--who had died 50 years earlier (but had resided at that adress), and presumably never should have been in a comptuter database.

    • In the last US national election, several of the politicians running for office sent their own spam.

      Until spam starts costing them money personally, or they feel they might lose a significant number of votes over it, our politicians will do nothing of consequence in regards to spam.

  • I'd like to know what this kid's major was. And, "Ryan Pitylak?" I'm definately lacking pity.
    • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:56AM (#11360761)
      I'd like to know what this kid's major was.

      Obviously Business with an Ethics concentration.
      • I looked up his info in the school directory and he is a junior philosophy major, and he lives down the street from me.
        • BTW, 2002A Guadalupe is a box at 'THE UPS STORE'. So, I don't think he lives there unless he is very tiny. ;)

          Name Ryan Pitylak
          Ryan Samuel Pitylak
          Title Junior, Philosophy
          College/Department College of Liberal Arts
          E-Mail ryan@payperaction.com
          Home Phone +1 512-320-9930
          Home Address 2002a Guadalupe St # 290
          Austin, TX 78705-5609-02
        • Heh, I really want to see an article about this in the texan on tuesday. Granted most won't care, but even 1% of 54000 is alot of miffing.
    • Re:Book em, Danno. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ralphart ( 70342 )
      His major? Saw in the Dallas Morning News it was Philosophy. There's a sad joke somewhere in there.

    • > I'd like to know what this kid's major was.

      And why he was in college if, as the news story suggested, he had raked in millions of dollars this way.

      Oh... maybe he needed access to the university's computers.

    • I'd like to know what this kid's major was

      Probably a PoliSci major. Spam, porn, and flipping burgers is the only way he'll ever make any money.
    • He's a philosophy major at UT, with a junior standing. Ha, his email address is
      ryan@payperaction.com .
    • He has allowed the university to publish his directory information [utexas.edu] which says he is a philosophy major.
    • He's an advertising major according to this blog: http://www.offthekuff.com/mt/archives/003952.html [offthekuff.com]

      Seems obvious now.

    • You know, I don't have a problem with spammers getting nailed against the wall just like everyone else; but something just occurred to me:

      Why is it when this college kid breaks a law (spam), Slashdot is ready to fire him out of a cannon, but when a different college kid breaks a different law (DMCA, DVD CSS, Apple trade secret lawsuits, insert other offense here), they rush to his defense?

      I understand the whole "freedom of information" angle, but the law is still the law... until it is repealed and there
      • Why is it when this college kid breaks a law (spam), Slashdot is ready to fire him out of a cannon, but when a different college kid breaks a different law (DMCA, DVD CSS, Apple trade secret lawsuits, insert other offense here), they rush to his defense?

        Different victims. We are all victims of spam, so we love seeing the perpetrators brought to justice. (I think an appropriate sentence would be one minute of jail time for every spam they've sent, with no opportunity for parole.) The victims of violati

      • In the case of of copyright infringement, the harm is minimal, if any at all. It is possible that a large content producre loses a sale form it, however pelase remember that not every illegal copy is one that the person would have bought anyhow. So there is minimal monitary harm to a single entity. I see that as being something that warrants a small (like few hundred) dollar fine, not the threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

        In the case of spam the harm is vast and widespread. Spam costs a lot of money
      • Why is it when this college kid breaks a law (spam), Slashdot is ready to fire him out of a cannon, but when a different college kid breaks a different law (DMCA, DVD CSS, Apple trade secret lawsuits, insert other offense here), they rush to his defense?

        Because the members of slashdot are human. They bring thier own prejudices to thier opinions and decisions no matter how logical people think they are. There is an aspect of the crimes against DMCA, DVD, CSS, trade secrets benefits them so they are forgive

    • Actually, the jerk [utexas.edu] is a Junior majoring in "Philosophy"...
    • You could always look in the UT DIRECTORY [utexas.edu]

      Name: Ryan Samuel Pitylak
      Title: Junior, Philosophy
      College/Department: College of Liberal Arts
      E-Mail: ryan@payperaction.com
      Home Phone: +1 512-320-9930
      Home Address: 2002a Guadalupe St # 290
      Austin, TX 78705-5609-02

  • Only 4th? (Score:2, Funny)

    by TFGeditor ( 737839 )
    "According to watchdog group SpamHaus, PayPerAction is the fourth-largest spam operation in the world."

    Only fourth? The boy can't be a native Texan, then. Must be a Yankee immigrant.

    (If you can't tell the difference between humor, flamebait, and troll, don't mod this.)
    • May favorite part of the article,

      Local resident Dewey Coffman received one too many spam e-mails and finally did something about it. He archived and forwarded spam messages over to the AG's Office. His main concern with spam in general for his children.

      "A lot of the pornography content is offensive and that is what has concerned me the most. You can't even let the kids in the room when your reading e-mail because some the spam contains that and it will flash up on your screen before you have a chance

      • I'm thinking more like Slim Pickens.
      • When did that new spelling creep in? For over 30 years it has been DAGNABBIT. Not that anybody cares though. More coffee.
      • Re:Only 4th? (Score:3, Informative)

        > Does anyone else think that Dewey Coffman must look like Eustis on 'Courage the Cowardly Dog'?

        They had him on the news last night (in Austin) and he looked like your average
        computer geek. Perhaps he'll post on /.?

        They also showed the spammers 400k+ house and beamer parked out front.
    • by hawk ( 1151 )
      Only fourth? The boy can't be a native Texan, then. Must be a Yankee immigrant.

      Nah. THat's by quantity. These were *big* spams.

      err, about somethign supposedly big, at least.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 14, 2005 @09:57AM (#11360775)
    do you see the irony that this guy really may end up having to pay per action?
  • There are two ways to see if you've been sent illegal spam: Check for misleading subject lines that are intended to trick people into opening them. Look for a Web page to submit contact information.
    Does all this damn V 1 A G R A email count as misleading? I think every spam message I get has some way to try and trick my filters.
    • Re:Two ways (Score:5, Funny)

      by AKnightCowboy ( 608632 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @10:13AM (#11360910)
      Well, they figure if you don't want Viagra then you may be interested in their other products such as v14gr4 or V.!agri.a or ^i4.r4. Don't forget Cialias or C14l1$ or !4l1s soft tabs. My spam consists of someone advertising their porn webcam, shady pharmaceutical sales pitches, mortgages, and premium replica Rolex watches. They must think I have nothing better to do than buy a house and sit around taking viagara while jerking off to some slut's webcam and using my replica watch to alert me to when I should get up to get food.
      • I've recently been blessed with the opportunity to purchase valuable st0ck at a sharp discount! I am going to invest some of the millions of dollars I have already made helping those nice men from Nigeria with their banking problems.

      • Right. I've always wondered why they spam this stuff: -How much "small guys" are out there that need "enlargements"? -People who need viagra can get it from their docs easily, and it's not that expensive at all (heck, the doctors offer them so much, it's almost annoying) Pain killers are harder to get and cost more, but I doubt they're cheap illegally (or do they even work?) and who wants to risk getting in legal troubles? My insurance pays for mine (partial SCI, chronic pain...) -Not like you can tell you
      • Um...could you forward me that webcam one?
  • Spam isn't all that difficult to track back, why is it taking so long for groups like this (#4 in the world) to get shut down? Is the slowdown our legal system and building the case?
    • by gorbachev ( 512743 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @10:14AM (#11360927) Homepage
      Well, until recently spamming, in itself, has been quite legal. You could only get someone convicted, if they spammed to advertise something illegal.

      Since the various anti-spamming laws have come to effect the problem has been lack of enforcement.

      The only real deterrent so far has been civil suits filed by ISPs such as Microsoft (Hotmail and MSN), Earthlink and AOL to name to most active litigators of spammers. The civil suits have been very effective, but do not usually land the perps in prison (other than that Buffalo spammer who was dumb enough to use stolen credit cards to pay for the Earthlink accounts he spammed from).
  • If you're having serious problems with spammers rumplestiltskinning (rcpt dictionary attacks), sendmail-8.13.x allows you to limit the number of concurrent connections per IP address, limit the number of connections per minute per IP address, and slow down the flow of 'rcpt to:' commends by calling sleep(1); after a threshold number configured in your mc file.

    If that's not enough, and it wasn't for me, this one line hack to sendmail posted to the mimedefang list will hang up on the fuckers after hitting yo
    • For exim >= 4.12 just drop this into your DATA ACL:

      drop message = too many bad recipients
      condition = ${if and { {>{$rcpt_count}{8}} \
      {>{$rcpt_fail_count}{$recipients_count}} }{yes}{no}}

      The other bits are similarly easy :)

      • I stick with sendmail out of inertia more than anything else. Frankly, it's about time I explored other MTAs. I understand why the sendmail folks won't implement rcpt flood connection dropping out of respect for the RFCs, but the problem is pretty bad. If the exim folks support this, the sendmail folks are going to have to face the truth and support it soon too. For now, just make do I guess. Good tip BTW, thanks! --M
  • State resources? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by catdevnull ( 531283 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @11:01AM (#11361461)
    I wonder if the student used his student accounts and/or UT's bandwidth the propagate his spam? If so, that's a DOUBLE whammy!! The state could have his proverbial ass for misuse if they can't get him on the spam charges.
  • Spamming Countries (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Friday January 14, 2005 @11:23AM (#11361769) Homepage Journal
    And before the usual trolls roll in to claim that most of the spam is from China and whatever:

    Top 10 Spammer Countries [spamhaus.org]

    If you're too lazy to look, the US is 1st with over 3 times the score of the 2nd place, which is indeed China.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The ultimate source is the US because that's where the financial backers of these companies are but why do you think they find it so appealing to go offshore through zombie boxes? They know the governments over there will do nothing to stop it.
  • We have a tendency to fry spammers, they rank right in there with them cattle rustlers.
  • Interesting article - my own website (based on WordPress) used to recieve large amounts of comment spam. I'm not getting much of that any more (yippee!!!).

    And the adverts: Texas Hold-Ems. (and casino's, Rolexes, C!4Ii5 etc, but mostly Texas Hold-Ems).

    Shame really, as I visited Texas in 2003 and really liked the people there (still do of course, just not this spamming $£%&*!
    • My roller skating forum (with, sadly, about 30 members, only one of whom is "active" - me) gets a LOT of "registration spam" - they register the account and put in a URL to an adult site.

      Even if the registrations have to be activated by the admin (as I have it set right now), the new user still shows up in the user list and all with their porn URL. I've had to spend hours deleting accounts that were registered strictly to put in a porn link.

      Pretty frustrating. It wouldn't bother me so much if the board
    • My WordPress blog used to get the same sort of spam (advertising the same crap, nonetheless) until I installed the AuthImage plugin [gudlyf.com]. It's stopped the spam completely without requiring me to keep a blacklist updated or forcing my friends to create accounts just to leave comments. It isn't a perfect solution (it's not accessible to blind visitors), but since virtually no one other than sighted friends reads my site, it works for me.
    • I can't fathom actually liking the people in texas. Or anything about the place, really, save barbecue. I wonder why. Perhaps it's just the truck/gun/hate mentality I can't stand.
  • We've known Leadplex were spammers since day one.

    All these shady guys used to be walking in and out of Leadplex all day, it looked more like a drug ring than an actual business. I work over at Simpler-Webb [swinc.com] and smoked a lot of cigarettes with the spammer guys. Most of them aren't intrinsically bad, but that Ryan guy (i'm assuming it was him) acted REALLY shady all the time. I went over to their company one day just 'looking for someone' and when he came to the door he seemed pretty freaked out someone
    • I'm not saying that you should, y'know, take advantage of your position or anything - but if a horrible accident should befall any of the guys there and you should just happen to have a PayPal account, I'm sure that a lot of the people here might...

      No, no, forget I said anything. I was kidding.

      Unless you really wanted to or something.

      No, never mind.

      Wait? You smoke? You ever maybe... drop one of them? Accidentally?

      Forget it. I didn't mean that.

      Hey, are you dumb? Like, dumb enough to smoke around a can

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal