Three sly spammers have been ordered to stop sending unsolicited pornographic e-mails under a federal judge’s temporary restraining order sought by the Federal Trade Commission, which charged them with sending deceptive, unwanted e-mails promoting sexually oriented Web sites, and routing them through other people’s computers without their knowledge or consent.
Since at least April 2005, according to the Commission, the defendants have relayed commercial e-mails through home computers infected with viruses and other “malware” that allows distant parties to control them. The e-mails had racy images like those on the Web sites they promoted.
Persons who control infected computers (spam zombies) group them as “botnets,” which they rent or sell for bulk e-mailing. Botnets, which allow bulk e-mailers to conceal the source of their spam and evade spam filters, are used as “relays” or “proxies” that make it appear as if spam came from the zombies and not the source. According to the FTC, the defendants shopped Web sites frequented by spammers, seeking vendors who can provide networks of thousands of zombies.
The FTC charged the defendants with violating its Adult Labeling Rule and the CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing) by sending the e-mails without recipients’ permission, not stating “SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT” in subject lines, and hiding the sending computer’s identity by using hijacked computers and misleading e-mail headers. Sending spam through unauthorized relay computers is an aggravated violation of CAN-SPAM. The FTC pursued this matter with assistance from Microsoft Corporation.
On January 19, a U.S. district court judge ordered an ex parte temporary restraining order freezing the assets of William Dugger, a/k/a Billy Johnson, and Angelina Johnson, both of whom reside in Hawaii, and John Vitale, who resides in Arizona, all doing business as Net Everyone. The FTC ultimately seeks to permanently bar them from further violations and make them forfeit their ill-gotten gains. By a 4-0 vote, the Commission approved the filing of the complaint inU.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, which occurred on January 9, 2006.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant actually has violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
Copies of the complaint are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information on 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish (bilingual counselors are available to take complaints), or to get free information on any of available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
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(FTC File No. 052-3161)