Home / Blogs

What's Wrong With Spam Prosecutions

Spam these days is more than an annoyance — it increasingly carries malware payloads that can do serious damage to your PC, steal your identity, or turn your PC into a zombie that carries out denial of service attacks.

So anything that law enforcement can do to fight spam should be a good thing, right? Well, not quite, as I'll explain.

Federal and state agencies have launched "Operation Slam Spam,” in which dozens of spammers, identity theft artists, and scammers have been arrested or will be prosecuted for doing the kind of slimy stuff that has become an online epidemic. Good thing, you might say. And I agree, at least partially.

Here's the catch: Much of the money for the effort was paid for by a private business, and not just any private business, but by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), an industry lobbying group whose members blanket your real-world mailbox with junk mail, and which has fought against stronger anti-spam laws.

So what's wrong with that?

First off, prosecutions shouldn't be bought and sold on the open market.

Then there's the problem with the DMA itself. The reason it funded Operation Slam Spam is crystal clear: It hopes that a big-publicity prosecution will convince people that the laws on the books against spam are working, and all that's needed is to use the law to go after the bad guys. If it can convince people of that, it will consider its money well spent.

The truth is, though, that the federal Can Spam Act has failed. Spam has been getting worse, not better, since the law went on the books. The law is rarely adhered to. And because the law supercedes state laws, some of which were far tougher, it has helped keep spammers in business.

So when the prosecution makes its big splash, turn a cold eye on it, and to understand why it's happening, remember the advice of Woodward and Bernstein when they cracked the Watergate scandal: "Follow the money."

By Preston Gralla, Author & Journalist

Related topics: Malware, Spam


Don't miss a thing – get the Weekly Wrap delivered to your inbox.


Re: What's Wrong With Spam Prosecutions The Famous Brett Watson  –  Aug 26, 2004 2:21 AM PDT

The point about private funding of law enforcement efforts is well made. If it takes the financial backing of the DMA to enforce the law, then who is going to enforce the law where DMA members are concerned? I don't like where that train of thought leads.

Re: What's Wrong With Spam Prosecutions Minas Beede  –  Aug 26, 2004 11:09 AM PDT

I pretty much agree with all you say about the DMA.  (Here it is Thursday and I keep searching for the news conference that was supposed to happen today, at which the anti-spam actions claimed to have been taken by the government are to be announced.  So far, nothing.  Plenty on the anti-file-sharing actions, but that's it.)

Do note that the DMA may have had a far smaller part in the effort than that for which they jumped the gun to credit themselves with. 

Those who don't want the DMA getting the credit for anti-spam action needn't sit on their hands: they can take wickedly effective action themselves (most of them):


Tell the FTC what you find, tell the appropriate ISP, tell the press.  You can outpower the DMA, alone.

Re: What's Wrong With Spam Prosecutions Kevin Murphy  –  Aug 26, 2004 12:19 PM PDT

"Spammers always define spam as something they don't do".

This is what is happening here. There's an effort to redefine corporate-backed, CAN-SPAM-compliant spam as ham.

The fact that most spam is amateurish, offensive, and fraudulent makes it all the easier to make this distinction.

Re: What's Wrong With Spam Prosecutions Kevin Murphy  –  Aug 26, 2004 2:49 PM PDT

The DMA lobbies against the private right of action in spam legislation.


To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News

Explore Topics

Dig Deeper

Mobile Internet

Sponsored by Afilias Mobile & Web Services

IP Addressing

Sponsored by Avenue4 LLC

DNS Security

Sponsored by Afilias


Sponsored by Verisign

Promoted Posts

Buying or Selling IPv4 Addresses?

ACCELR/8 is a transformative IPv4 market solution developed by industry veterans Marc Lindsey and Janine Goodman that enables organizations buying or selling blocks as small as /20s to keep pace with the evolving demands of the market by applying processes that have delivered value for many of the largest market participants. more»

Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

Verisign Q3 2016 DDoS Trends Report: User Datagram Protocol (UDP) Flood Attacks Continue to Dominate

Government Guidance for Email Authentication Has Arrived in USA and UK

Defending Against Layer 7 DDoS Attacks

MarkMonitor Partners with CYREN to Deepen Visibility into Global Phishing Attacks

Is Your TLD Threat Mitigation Strategy up to Scratch?

Resilient Cybersecurity: Dealing with On-Premise, Cloud-Based and Hybrid Security Complexities

The Framework for Resilient Cybersecurity (Webinar)

2015 Trends: Multi-channel, Streaming Media and the Growth of Fraud

Protect Your Network From BYOD Malware Threats With The Verisign DNS Firewall

Introducing the Verisign DNS Firewall

TLD Security, Spec 11 and Business Implications

Verisign iDefense 2015 Cyber-Threats and Trends

The Latest Internet Plague: Random Subdomain Attacks

Digging Deep Into DNS Data Discloses Damaging Domains

Smokescreening: Data Theft Makes DDoS More Dangerous

Reducing the Risks of BYOD with Nominum's Security Solution

Nominum Releases New Security Intelligence Application

Our New Initiatives To Combat Botnets

Q1 2012 Fraud Intelligence Report

How Secure is Your Mobile Network? And Does It Even Matter? (Webinar)