Spam Opponents Are Losing the Battle; Recent Cyber-Attacks Have Overwhelmed Organizations' Web Sites

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 13, 2003 | Go to article overview

Spam Opponents Are Losing the Battle; Recent Cyber-Attacks Have Overwhelmed Organizations' Web Sites


Byline: Tim Lemke, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The battle against spam is turning into an all-out war.

Organizations involved in the fight against unwanted e-mail have been under a barrage of cyber-attacks from spammers in recent weeks, and some say the attacks have become too powerful and malicious to stop.

At least four groups in the past month shut down or slowed operations after being hit with thousands of "denial of service" attacks that crashed Web sites and, in some cases, sent massive quantities of e-mail to customers.

Most of the victims were operators of "blocklists," which published the locations of spammers on the Internet.

They say the attacks are part of an escalating war between spammers, who send out billions of unsolicited e-mail messages each day, and the fragmented group of nonprofit organizations trying to stop them.

Among the hardest hit was Ron Guilmette, a Roseville, Calif., software designer who operated Monkeys.com, a "blocklist" service used by Internet service providers and businesses to filter out unwanted e-mail.

Between Aug. 19 and Aug. 29, Mr. Guilmette's Web site was knocked off line repeatedly, and e-mail users received millions of spam messages that were falsely marked as coming from Monkeys.com.

"It was impossible to continue distributing the list. ... I no longer had Internet connectivity," Mr. Guilmette said. "It's becoming much harder to continue offering free ... services to the antispam community." He shut down the blocklist permanently Sept. 22.

Australian e-mail service provider Bluebottle said last week it would have to turn off spam-fighting tools for its customers as a result of nonstop attacks by spammers. Compu.net Enterprises, a small Tennessee Internet service provider, said at the end of September it would shut down a service that lists the Internet protocol addresses of suspected spammers.

"There's generally been a trend of heightened warfare between spammers and antispammers," said Ray Everett-Church, chief counsel for the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail. "It's a continuously escalating arms race."

Smaller, nonprofit antispam groups appear to be more vulnerable to attacks, mainly because they lack the financial resources to recover. Also, analysts said, some individuals might have been targeted because they were overzealous in their spam-fighting techniques, even angering fellow antispam advocates. …

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