Friday, March 18, 2011

Microsoft Shuts Down Spam Network

Today the Wall Street Journal reported on a gigantic spam network that was shut down by Microsoft and the federal government. The spam network, labeled the Rustock "botnet" by Microsoft in a federal civil lawsuit, is alleged to be the leading source of junk email on the internet.

The spam allegedly peddled everything from vitamins to counterfeit software - an invitation for Microsoft to act. The lawsuit had been previously sealed, likely to enable covert and coordinated action across the country by Microsoft and the feds. U.S. Marshals and Microsoft lawyers raided hosting companies from Seattle to Chicago.

The lawsuit is now unsealed at Microsoft's request. One can only speculate that Microsoft's desire to unseal the suit at this point stems from some urge to parlay its efforts into goodwill with consumers. I wonder if this is a tactical error in the litigation currently underway. Surely there are some advantages in keeping this under seal on a litigation operational and investigative level.

As an internet attorney specializing in commercial email issues, I know that evidence collection and identification of proper parties can be challenging. Furthermore, the line between illegal spam email and legitimate bulk commercial email is often a point of confusion among both consumers and email service providers.

In this case, it appears Microsoft has dealt a blow to an anonymous, international source of much of the illegal spam email making its way through various networks and hosting companies. E-commerce rule-breakers are, if anything, adaptable. Let's see if a new threat rises to fill the vacuum caused by Microsoft's efforts.

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