Spam King Gets New Career as Jail Bird

By PatB
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

Robert Soloway was known by most spam fighters as the “Spam King.”  He has been making a fortune on flooding peoples’ inboxes with spam for almost a decade.  Conservative estimates determine Soloway banked $700,000 from his activities over a three year period.  He was convicted in May of 2007 and was sentenced yesterday to almost 4 years in prison.  And as a headline on FARK put it, Soloway is about to “have his inbox filled with unsolicited male.”

From PCWorld here:

The “spam king” was sentenced on Tuesday to 47 months in prison, with a ruling that the court hopes sends a message to other online criminals.

Robert Soloway, the man known as the spam king for the massive volume of spam he sent out, pleaded guilty to fraud, spamming and tax evasion after being indicted in May 2007.

Soloway apologized to the judge and to his family, admitting that his actions were wrong. “There is no one else to blame but myself,” he said, before the judge handed down her sentence.

Soloway has apologized for his activities before. After he was investigated in 1999 in California for spamming activities, he told detectives that he was sorry and learned a lot. He then moved on to another state and immediately engaged in the same behavior.

It has been more typical for Soloway to boast about his techniques than to apologize for them. In online forums he would brag that he would never have to pay the millions of dollars the civil courts ordered him to pay.

Unfortunately, this is just one spammer.  The PCWorld article mentions other notorious spammers already in jail for crimes too, but as everyone has noticed, the volumes of spam have not dropped.

According to MessageLabs here, more than 3 in 4 SMTP messages on the internet is currently spam.  Soloway and his ilk were the first to use stolen lists of known email addresses to feed as input into botnets.  But spamming has become much more sophisticated as botnets have evolved over the past few years, and they don’t solely rely on lists anymore.  Now botnets have advanced email address guessing algorithms in addition to standard webcrawling techniques to harvest email addresses from websites, forums and other public sources.

A study by Joe Stewart of SecureWorks lists the top Spam Botnets here, and he estimates that botnets alone now account for over 100 Billion emails per day.  And if it weren’t for major ISP’s blocking outbound spam from infected hosts, that number would be way higher.

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