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Microsoft Spam

Gates' Resolve in Bringing Spammers to Justice 325

An anonymous reader writes "It didn't seem to me like any single company had the stomach to keep after the scum that are ruining the Net for the rest of us. Unless that company is Microsoft. Since the beginning of 2003, Microsoft has filed 96 lawsuits against spammers, and 119 lawsuits against phishers. By any measure, 215 lawsuits constitutes a legal juggernaut. "
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Gates' Resolve in Bringing Spammers to Justice

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  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Sunday April 03, 2005 @09:53AM (#12126001) Homepage
    Wow - Microsoft/Gates usually gets a bad rap on /., but kudos to them for going after the scumbags [] of the Internet. Another group I find annoying is the folks who do referrer log spamming. [] Even though I don't publish those log stats (so their efforts are to naught), they continue to send their stupid traffic and it's a bit annoying to see in the web log analysis.
  • Don't you realize that every time you say something nice about Microsoft, Bill and Melinda dine on one of those Indian babies they've "saved" from HIV? How to serve man, indeed!

    In all seriousness, the spam epidemic is actually caused by a relatively tiny number of people, so it would seem that this is a workable strategy - but the cause will just be taken up by people outside of our jurisdiction (Russians, mostly.)
    • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:01AM (#12126052)
      So long as 99% of the spam I get is advertising services supplied from America, Microsoft acting is GOOD News. I am almost tempted to buy a copy of WinXP Euro Edition with missing bits.

      However, while WinXP is so insecure that BargainBuddies and istBar can hijack my family's browsers, I shall not switch from FreeBSD, and I shall continue recommending switching to Macs as the only reliable cure for spyware for non-geeks.

      • This is the point , Gates is throwing Millions to stop these spammers yet what is MS doing to plug the holes that are creating these zombie nets.Sure they are patching , but when the average windows user is running as an Admin with a browser with holes the size of a small country ,disaster is soon to follow .
        I have infact (due to these people not having the funds to buy a new computer or the will, familly mainly) installed a rather nice custom debian install on several peoples computers , a bit of tweaking to KDE and it can be incredibly easy to use if all you require is Email , HTML , small time office work .auto mounting CDs and DVDs playing with a single click large button on the desktop .

        • Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to stop absolutely all zombie nets. Even with a 'secure' OS, there's always going to be some idiot who'll happily type his/her root password into a trojan. The zombie problem really lies with the ISPs cutting them off, not Microsoft.
          • I prefer to see it laying in education . I do agree though that ISPs taking some action is perhaps the best short term soloution , But the only real long term soloution is Educating the masses about some basics .
            !: dont run root/admin unless you need to
            !: dont buy from spam
            !: Dont click yes without reading

            Now one of the many reason Unix bases OSs are more secure is that as i see it the average users will have more education in the IT field(before or after , as it will always require some reading) so are less likely to fall for daft emails with attachments or stupid pops ups with "click yes" from odd websites.

            • only real long term soloution is Educating the masses

              If thats the only solution, then I can understand the urgency in rearranging the seats on the sun deck of the Titanic.

              Have you ever tried educating the masses?

              I personally have met users who are barely litterate in English, and have only attended school for three years in their life. However, they can still afford a PC, and believe they can get rich using it. Not only that, they are quite likely to believe that if I tell them "No, Don't buy that, its

      • It should be pointed out that a power user is much less likely to get hijacked, as one would more than likely use Firefox, firewalls, Windows Update, and a properly configured antivirus program.
        • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @01:29PM (#12127092)
          A power user will probably use Linux, BSD or a Mac.

          The problem is the terminally stupid, and the fact that there are more terminally stupid people in the world than anyone can imagine. In the next ten years, most of them will be Windows users unless we are struck by an asteroid.

          Panic now, before its too late...

          • I disagree. Windows is an excellent web development environment and makes it much easier to install stuff (non-free). As a production environment, carefully setting up Linux server is great, but for fast and dirty development without detailed setup questions, Windows takes the cake. Power Users are typically advanced enough to use each OS for its strengths.
    • You must be new here. According to /. spam is caused by a bazillion compromied windows boxes, not a tiny number of people.
    • Im guessing the 600,000 people who have received Vaccines from his foundation wouldn't find that joke too funny. Gates foundation []
      • People who've received vaccines, or had a family member in a coma, or lost relatives to ethnic cleansing, etc. never find *anything* funny. At least, not any of my jokes.

        So that can't be a consideration, can it?

        That said, it was humor by double inversion - the only way a cool, cynical person such as myself can offer praise of any sort to someone for doing something decent. So obviously, you don't think the Gates' foundation deserves acclamation for their humanitarian works.

        blanks, why do you hate the poo
  • Legal Juggernaut? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2005 @09:57AM (#12126021)
    By any measure, 215 lawsuits constitutes a legal juggernaut.
    Yet I'm still getting more and more spam as time goes on. These lawsuits might buy Microsoft some goodwill, and they might situate injunctions against spammers who are spamming Microsoft. But what are they doing for the anti-spam movement in general? Not a damned thing.
    • by LighthouseJ ( 453757 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:29AM (#12126185)
      Why don't we rewind time and tell Microsoft "don't sue spammers/phishers because we just want to see how much spam we'd get" and then compare? The point is that you can't qualitatively determine how successful Microsoft is. If there's one company that has the capital to chase spammers/phishers and one that's in their best interest, it's Microsoft. They're doing more about it than you are so stop being a moron.
  • Come off it (Score:3, Informative)

    by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @09:57AM (#12126026)
    All the big ISPs have been after spammers for quite a while now. I believe that AOL is owed a few million by that bankrupt spammer who featured in another /. story quite recently.
  • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @09:57AM (#12126027)

    Strange: If any one company out there has the install base to actually do something technical about spam, it's Microsoft, yet they'd rather sue than improve their product.

    I'm surprised ISP's aren't filing hundreds of lawsuits. They claim their servers are so overworked by all the spam, but they aren't doing anything effective about it (legally or technically).
    • If any one company out there has the install base to actually do something technical about spam, it's Microsoft, yet they'd rather sue than improve their product.

      Do you mean they should implement a new SMTP standard on their servers? Break from current standards in the way Outlook handles e-mail? I'm sure the slashdot crowd would just love that! :}
      • If the standard were published and fully documented in a way that was reasonable to implement across mail platforms I'm not sure the /. crowd would have a problem. /. has debated SMTP vs. other systems for a long time and Microsoft would be a good choice for updating the standards.

        People don't have Microsoft being involved in standards, rather they dislike Microsoft using standards as a way to sell their products.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      This is precisely correct. Rather than feature-fill their software with stupid auto-activate tools that encourage viruses, and auto-load tools that promote such abusive advertisiing, and wasting their time on amazingly silly patented XML-based header modifications that cannot be used by others such as their SenderID system, they could instead fix the way their mailer software and operating systems cncourage this behavior.

      Or they could put some lobbying effort directly into changing the laws. The law in que
  • by mark99 ( 459508 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @09:58AM (#12126031) Journal
    Reducing Spam makes people use MS computers (and Exchange) more (as opposed to the alternatives).

    - Investing in spam filter technology reduces spam.
    - Sueing spammers also reduces spam.

    The optimal strategy will be to persue both strategies till they yield the same rate of spam reduction.

    And that rate should be determined by whatever they think they earn on spam reduction.

    My bet is that someone at MS has done the math.

    And it keeps their lawyers sharp, who knows how and when that will come in handy :)

    • Go ahead and mod me down for Trol or Offtopic, but the economist in me likes to point out the following correction to the parent.

      The optimal strategy will be to persue both strategies till they yield the same rate of additional spam reduction per cost in each pursuit.

      Otherwise, mod parent up!
    • Exactly. If people are forced to a different mail system, there is a good chance that it will either be a non-MS system, or at least a battle ground that OE/etc doesn't have as strong a foothold in.

      Generally, the thing that seems to be replacing
      E-mail is I.M.. You can communicate instantaneously and informally, even if the person is not there. And, unfortunatly for Microsoft the king of IM is AIM, despite their Frick'in required copy of MS Messenger which they should be sent to hell for which pops up ev
    • This isn't the Windows and Office side of Microsoft going after them. This is the ISP side of Microsoft, including MSN and Hotmail, who have the same kinds of problems with spam that other ISPs do. Spam costs them money, annoys their customers, and encourages annoyed customers to find ISPs with better spam prevention, so they have to do anything within reason to reduce the spam.

      Filters and Lawsuits hit different ends of the spammer market. Lawsuits aren't very useful against the little spammers - it's a

  • Bill (Score:5, Funny)

    by 0x461FAB0BD7D2 ( 812236 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @09:58AM (#12126032) Journal
    ...probably just got tired of getting spam and 419ers in his Hotmail inbox / Outlook Express. So instead of developing better filters, he decided to take them out.

    Someone might as well invite BillG to Gmail already.

  • Sure, there will be spammers who think they can evade folks like Kornblum, Spitzer, and Abbott. But for every one of them, there will be others who--when they see what happened to Scott Richter as a result of Gates' resolve--hopefully will realize that spamming and phishing are bad career choices.

    So the 'script kiddie spammers' drop out and the smart spammers take over, making even more money. It's supply and demand, and apparently there is demand for SPAM from this small-penised, high-mortgage, porn-se
    • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:19AM (#12126126)
      Funny you say that, I've started responding to so-called spam recently.

      I now have a 14" long penis, a £500,000 mortgage (on income of a twentieth of that!), more software than I know what to do with and some very nice pictures of Brintey Spears (well, that's who they said she was, but I'm sure she doesn't spell her name like that...).

      I get medicines at exceptionally low prices (though I'm a bit concerned about the side effects I've been having from that the last batch of aspirin), and my printer is unlikely to run out of ink until 2009. Provided it doesn't explode like my last one did when I put those special chinese cartridges in. Damn cheap printers.

      Of course, none of this comes cheap. But when a nice man in Nigeria has promised you 25% of $20,000,000, you can afford to splash out now and then...
  • Good Step (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bostonsoxfan ( 865285 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:01AM (#12126051)
    Well this is a step in the right direction at least make them pay something. Drown them in court costs even if you lose because unlike Microsoft their bankroll is not so massive.

    The next step is improving their software and improving the security on their platform. Just keeping regular security updates is good. Hopefully they will continue with their Anti-Spyware tool which isn't bad.

  • by Sialagogue ( 246874 ) <sialagogue&gmail,com> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:01AM (#12126055)

    If there's one place Microsoft should feel right at home, it's in court. . .
  • by AdityaG ( 842691 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:02AM (#12126059) Homepage
    I know it's very hard for some of you people to get over your silly fanboy-ish attitude, but when MS does something good, why not praise them. Yes, they have bad business practices. Doesn't mean you have have crap on their image every single time.

    This is somewhat like P2P. They might not be able to get whomever is joining these spamming companies for work, but it would certainly discourage people from getting jobs in these places. I think just that would prove a significant blow to these places.

    My two cents.
    • I can't see anything in the article which says that they're going after spammers in general... just spammers or phishers who hit their sites.

      That's still a good thing, but it seems to me that all a spammer has to do to be safe is not spam hotmail addresses. And all a phisher has to do is not impersonate Microsoft.

      So, on the whole... not a huge win for internet users. A step in the right direction, nothing more.

  • 0\/\/N3D (Score:2, Insightful)

    by a_greer2005 ( 863926 )
    Why does no one (big company or university) sue the ISPs that let own3d boxez and zombies connect and stay connected? if the ISPs looked for the zombis and told those users how to be good "netizens", and offered a CD of EASY TO USE removal software, the spam problem would disappear over night, without bots, no one could send 100,000,000 emails per day.
    • Re:0\/\/N3D (Score:2, Informative)

      by tokabola ( 771071 )
      SBC will cut you off if you're infected. I used to work a store that sells software and once had a guy come in for Anti-Virus. He was all pissed off because SBC cut him off. They had given him a five day warning but "he was to busy" to fix his box.

      He couln't understand why it mattered to SBC if he was infected or not. Most people (/. users are the obvious exception) have no clue what viruses do. They have no idea that their computer can be pwned and turned into a spambot. They think all viruses are w
  • by Puchku ( 615680 ) <Email AT adityanag DOT com> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:22AM (#12126142) Homepage
    While it may be de rigueur here on /. to bash Microsoft, sometimes one has to put the tinfoil hat away and commend them for doing something good. Sure, you can pull out some commercial motive behind this act, but hey, so what? When they annouce their fantastic new anti spam OS, we can bash them here, but if these lawsuits do help in reducing Spam, then hooray for MS! Apropos, I remember reading that gets one million messages every day, 98% of which is Spam. I suppose he just got plain old PISSED OFF!!
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:27AM (#12126165)
    If they become the unofficial police of the internet, they will be first in line to be the official ones, when government (with a little help from microsoft) decides that such a body should exist.
    • The more they howl about spammers, the less attention will be paid to the fundamentally broken qualities of Microsoft email clients. Security holes in Outlook? LOOK OVER THERE, IT'S A DIRTY SPAMMER.
  • They sue spammer, they win, they get awarded money.

    Yea Bills in this to improve the net like he sent money to the AIDs victims because he wanted to help. It's called PR people, I suggest you think about it.
    • Re:So.. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Utopia ( 149375 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:54AM (#12126571)
      Usually the damages awarded are beyond the paying capacity of the spammers and phishers.
      Microsoft will never see any money from this Scum bags.
      With the legal costs involved Microsoft is losing money.
      And leave it to some people to term all good actions as PR moves.
  • Where's Redhat? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenJeremy ( 181303 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:36AM (#12126213)
    Where are the supposed "good guys"?

    I realize the OSS community is doing things with their software to try and defeat spammers and phishers, but let's face it, legal action is the only real course of action to stop these guys (or at least whittle down their numbers).

    Phishers and spammers will always find ways around filters, no matter what intelligence is brought to bear with new algorithms. New mail protocols would help, but we are hopelessly mired in a standard that will take a miracle to topple at this point (perhaps some new multi-media e-mail standard?). People won't buy into an e-mail system other than SMTP/POP unless it brings something significant to the table, and is as simple and easy to use.

    The OSS community has for-profit companies out there... why aren't they flexing their muscle to help stop these scammers? Microsoft is at least doing something... and it demonstrates exactly what a big corporation like that can do when that lkind of capital is directed at doing something worthwhile.

    I think in the fervor to attack the supposed "evil monolith" people here tag as "Micro$oft", they forget exactly how much Gates, his company, and his employees donate to good causes around the world.
    • by daeley ( 126313 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:41AM (#12126503) Homepage
      legal action is the only real course of action to stop these guys

      I don't know, attacking them with pointy sticks seems reasonable to me, and much less expensive and time consuming than legal efforts.
    • Where are the supposed "good guys"?

      Working on systems that cannot be cracked so easily and fighting to ensure that any standards remain free from proprietary restraints.

      Why do you ask?

      I realize the OSS community is doing things with their software to try and defeat spammers and phishers, but let's face it, legal action is the only real course of action to stop these guys (or at least whittle down their numbers).

      Okkkaaaaayyyyyy.... Do you have ANY evidence that such has resulted in ANY reduction of spa

  • by Anonymous Coward
    1. Change your email address.

    2. Never give it away except to established websites (Amazon, etc) that require it and to friends/family.

    I abandoned my old college 20-spam-a-day email address after graduating. Since switching and then following these two policies, I have received only 1 spam message in the past 7 months.

  • by Get Behind the Mule ( 61986 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:43AM (#12126249)
    ... as long as spammers believe that there is money to be made by spamming. And that means that spamming will continue as long as email is so cheap to send and as long as there are sufficiently many dimwits who respond to spam. And there doesn't have to be very many such dimwits. You can sue as many spammers as you like; as long as there is money to be made, new spammers will appear in their place. The only irreplaceable part of the equation is the low cost of email compared to the money to be made even from a very low response rate.

    I don't know what the typical response rates for spam are, but even if one in a thousand or ten thousand recipients is an idiot who answers the spam and sends money, or even one in a million, then it's worth it to spam, because the cost of sending a thousand or ten thousand or even a million emails is nearly nothing. At any rate, it can easily be much less than what spammers charge for their product.

    One conceivable alternative is to make it more expensive to send email. If there were some way to establish "postage" for email, then even infintesimal costs for sending email, say 1/100th of a cent per email, would probably be effective, because then spammers would lose money by sending a million spams. But I can't see how such a system could be enforced, and I doubt that most people would go along with it, even if the costs for normal email use is very low.

    I also doubt that any amount of education or cajoling could reduce that rate of idiots in the general public to less than one in a thousand, certainly not less than one in a million. Putting all these thoughts together, I come to the depressing conclusion that we will never, ever be able to make spam go away, no matter what we do.
    • by khasim ( 1285 ) <> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @12:45PM (#12126859)
      Robbing banks is VERY lucrative.

      Yet your corner bank isn't robbed every day (or week or month or year).

      There might be strong incentive to send spam and make lots of money, but the spam still has to go out on technological avenues. All you have to do is to identify those and limit their effectiveness.

      #1. Zombies.

      #2. Open Relays.

      #3. Individual email accounts (30 day AOL free!)

      #4. Sites owned by the spammer.

      If you look at it that way, you'll see why MULTIPLE measures are needed. What will work against zombies will NOT work against Individual email accounts.

      If you deal with the tech, then the incentive won't matter because there won't be any way to implement it.

      Since this is about Microsoft's involvment, I'll focus on what they could do.

      #1. Zombies. Microsoft announces a partnership with the ISP's and those ISP's block outgoing port 25 on their home connections. Microsoft offsets the cost of this with a couple $$Million$$ to each ISP for hardware upgrades and support calls. Anyone who needs port 25 access (people who work from home and don't have systems setup to handle it) can call and have enabled for their address.

      #2. Open Relays. Microsoft forms a partnership with spamhaus, spamcop, etc to mirror the open relay databases of those people. Since Microsoft also has Hotmail and MSN, Microsoft is in a great position to identify new open relays and add them to the list as they are abused.

      #3. Individual email accounts. Not much that Microsoft needs to do here. All the ISP's need to do is to limit the outgoing email to 10 unique connections per minute.

      #4. Spammer sites. Again, Microsoft helps by hosting a mirror of the blacklists.

      There, the spam problem is down to a tiny fraction of what it was. The spammers might still WANT to send spam, but HOW are they going to do it?
      • Robbing banks is NOT very lucrative.

        The average bank robbery nets less than a thousand dollars, and over 80% of bank robbies are solved due to excellent security and survveilance in the average bank. Unless your bank is poorly run you will notice that there is NO cash up front with the tellers. They have to get cash from a machine designed to dispense cash slowly. Pretty much the only people robbing banks are desperate drug addicts these days.

        It is very difficult to steal a large amount of cash these da

      • You forgot something (Score:3, Informative)

        by houghi ( 78078 )
        #5. The chance of getting caught. Just try this little experiment. Call you local police station (not via 911 or any emergency number) and do the following test:
        1. Tell them you are a bank and are being robbed
        2. Tell them you are an individual and are being robbed
        3. tell them you are a person and are being scammed
        4. Tell them you are a person and are being spammed

        I am sure that with the last one most of the time you are asked to get lost. When number 3 and 4 come together, it mostly ends with "Sorry, they
    • Putting all these thoughts together, I come to the depressing conclusion that we will never, ever be able to make spam go away, no matter what we do.

      True enough, but that doesn't mean that taking out spammers by legal means is useless. It does somewhat limit the problem, and is one of many kinds of defenses against spam. All of them combined will hopefully keep our e-mail usable./p

  • Juggernaut? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @10:49AM (#12126265)
    By any measure, 215 lawsuits constitutes a legal juggernaut.

    I guess you've never heard of a little group known as the RIAA.
  • It didn't seem to me like any single company had the stomach to keep after the scum that are ruining the Net for the rest of us. Unless that company is Microsoft.

    Oh the irony.

  • Good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dmarx ( 528279 ) <dmarx&hushmail,com> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @11:25AM (#12126428) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad to see that somebody is going after these theives. Now, if only law enforcement agencies would press criminal charges against them, and help ordinary people out the way they do for corporations, we'd be all set.
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @12:21PM (#12126722)
    1. To the general public it looks as if they are solving the issue, where we know here that most spam is send by proxy on Wintendo machines.
    2. By solving it this way they do not have to solve the technical unsafety.
    3. If they win they make money out of the spammers.

    Now if I were Microsoft, I would just start suing everybody. As long as you see that the case will be more expensive then what they can afford, people will settle out of court. Where you took Joe "the bonecracker" Seipacchetti to meetings to 'convince' people of the advantages of insurence, you now just take a lawer with you, take their money and don't even bother about delivering anything.

    As long as 'suing till they are broke' is possible, I fail to see justice. Sorry. No matter how much I hate spam, I hate justice by money even more.
  • I don't know for you but for some reason
    MS suing the spammers reminds me of
    that MS vs. the Borg skit.

    Difference it that I don't know if I should cheer for either side. (both are still evil)
  • They key to solving spam is to move away from it. Email has been out quite a long time, and has greatly helped to increase communication in the world. But as many, including Don Knuth, have stated, it's time for email to die its timely death. There are many more capable tools out there, which serve for faster and more reliable communication, without being subject to the extreme abuse of email. I realize that the odds of people quitting email is low, but all legacy systems fade eventually.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) * on Sunday April 03, 2005 @01:51PM (#12127230)
    Is Gates going after spammers per se, or going after competition They still sell out their Hotmail and MSN mailing lists to interested advertisers, don't they?
  • by value_added ( 719364 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @03:42PM (#12127850)
    All you need is a few lawyers to file these lawsuits and one or two supervise them all. It's anyone's guess how large Microsoft's legal department is, but between in-house counsel/staff and the all attorneys working for law firms hired by Microsoft to represent them in their never ending litigation, I doubt anyone is working overtime.

    As for the cost, most likely it's a drop in the bucket when compared to what's already been spent or is being spent on antitrust cases. Whatever the cost, the bankers are used to it, the shareholders are used to it, as so is everyone else. And when one considers the PR value of these lawsuits, I doubt anyone would raise an eyebrow if real money was at stake.
  • by Daniel Phillips ( 238627 ) on Sunday April 03, 2005 @04:37PM (#12128172)
    It didn't seem to me like any single company had the stomach to keep after the scum that are ruining the Net for the rest of us.

    I thought it was Microsoft that is ruining the net for the rest of is. Isn't it Microsoft that created the spam industry?

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker