Microsoft Corp. announced today that, as a result of a six-month investigation and collaboration with New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the company has filed parallel lawsuits against a New York-based spamming ring allegedly responsible for sending billions of illegal and deceptive e-mail messages.
Spitzer and Microsoft united in legal actions against Synergy6 Inc., an e-mail marketing company based in New York, and Scott Richter, who has been dubbed the world’s third-largest spammer by ROKSO, the Register of Known Spam Operations, which is listed on http://www.spamhaus.org/, an anti-spam and consumer advocacy organization. Authorities allege that Richter and his accomplices in Washington, Texas and New York are responsible for seven illegal spam campaigns, each in violation of consumer protection statutes in New York and Washington. These campaigns used common spam techniques such as forged sender names, false subject lines, fake server names, inaccurate and misrepresented sender addresses, or obscured transmission paths. The lawsuits charge Richter and his accomplices with responsibility for sending illegal spam through 514 compromised Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in 35 countries spanning six continents. In addition to the lawsuit Microsoft filed in tandem with Spitzer, the company filed an additional five lawsuits against other spammers who allegedly used the same transmission path in New York that originally led investigators to Richter and the spam network.
Brad Smith, senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Microsoft, joined Spitzer at his New York office to announce the filing of today’s lawsuits.
“Deceptive and illegal spam, like the kind we’re attacking today, is overwhelming legitimate e-mail and threatening the promise and potential of the Internet for all of us,” Smith said. “We appreciate the attorney general’s leadership on what is arguably the biggest technology menace consumers are facing. Together we are stepping up efforts to help consumers take control of their inboxes again.”
Investigation of the Illicit Spam Network
Investigators at Microsoft discovered a high volume of spam e-mail originating from a compromised IP address in New York and tracing back to an e-mail marketing company also based in New York, Synergy6, the lawsuits allege. With cooperation from Microsoft, the New York Attorney General’s Office tracked these e-mail messages to identify separate marketing campaigns that passed through 514 IP addresses around the world. The investigation identified Richter in Colorado and his partners in Washington, Texas and New York as responsible for the campaigns.
They also determined that the e-mail messages were developed and sent in violation of the law. Some appeared to come from a foreign government’s defense ministry, others from a hospital, and still more from elementary and high schools. According to the lawsuits, those spam e-mail messages used other people’s sender names, false subject lines, fake server names, inaccurate and misrepresented sender addresses, or obscured transmission paths, all in violation of New York and Washington state law.
Multipronged Approach to Combat Spam
The legal action taken today is only one part of Microsoft’s approach to combating spam. Microsoft also has implemented several effective anti-spam technology features into its products. The company recently announced that its spam-filtering SmartScreen Technology will be deployed across Microsoft’s e-mail platforms. SmartScreen Technology is designed to provide the latest anti-spam filtering innovations to products and tools that help protect corporate and private e-mail users from the growing deluge of spam. Developed by Microsoft® Research, early versions of SmartScreen Technology already have been introduced in Outlook® 2003, MSN® 8 and Hotmail®. These features soon will be available in a new add-on for Exchange Server 2003 called Microsoft Exchange Intelligent Message Filter.
In addition, the company is assisting in the development of industry self-regulation guidelines and is working with other industry leaders to develop a set of guidelines for adoption by e-mail senders to help ensure responsible practices. The company continues its efforts with industry peers America Online Inc., EarthLink Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. to solve some of the technical issues associated with spam.