• United States

Breeding a Better Spammer

Apr 11, 20062 mins
Data CenterMalware

In a deal announced last week between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hand-in-hand with the state of California and the people behind an enormous spam operation namely Optin Global (yes, you’ve had the pleasure of their spam), Vision Media (them too), Qing Kuang “Rick” Yang, and Peonie Pui Ting Chen (I honestly didn’t make up those names) have agreed to pay a fine of $475,000, refrain from illegal activity, and eat their vegetables. But there’s a deal involved: The miscreants are not admitting to any wrongdoing! Right …

These spammers sent out millions of spam messages advertising, amongst other things, mortgage loans to the point where pissed off consumers sent nearly 2 million complaints to the FTC. And wonder of wonders, the FTC did something about it! According to an article on “[the] spam operation netted the defendants $2.4m, the FTC said. As part of the settlement, they’re required to hand over all those gains, but most of the money is gone. So they must pay $385,000 in cash and approximately $90,000 from the sale of property.” These guys were crazy. They had already been warned by the FTC and were violating the CAN SPAM Act with wild abandon: “According to the FTC, the spam email contained false or forged header information, included deceptive subject headings, failed to identify email as advertisements or solicitations, failed to notify consumers they had a right to opt out of receiving more email, failed to provide an opt-out mechanism and failed to include a valid physical postal address – all of which are required by law.” The fact that these people were prosecuted successfully is great although the bargain of admitting to any wrongdoing is pathetic. The downside is that if these people hadn’t been so dumb and so blatant then they would have been hidden in the woodwork along with the rest of the smart spammers. Seems that we only have the ability to catch the dumb ones. This is interesting as natural (AKA Darwinian) selection is coming into play. What we’re doing is selecting out the unsophisticated spammers leaving a greater incentive for the sophisticated ones to make more money. Not really a good idea, is it?


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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