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30 Nov 2009
Earlier this year, the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs,
the US Federal Trade Commission, and the Australian CMA
broke up a large fake drug spam ring known as Herbal Kings,
run by New Zealander Lance Atkinson. The NZ government fined him NZ$108,000
(about US$80,000) which, while a substantial fine, seemed pretty small
compared to the amount of money he must have made.
But today, at the FTC's request a US judge fined Atkinson US$15.5 million,
and got his US accomplice Jody Smith to turn over $800,000, including
over $500,000 in an Israeli bank.
This is the largest spam fine I'm aware of, and the $500,000 is one of
the largest international recoveries.
Atkinson hasn't paid the $15M, but since he is in jail, it seems
reasonably likely that the various governments will be able to track down his
assets by the time he gets out.
Spammers are in it for the money, and to the extent they can keep what they
get, they'll keep spamming.
Fines that wipe out the profits, and in particular fines that can actually
be collected are essential if we're going to make any progress against spam.
Fortunately for the FTC, Herbal King's spam was sloppy, with faked headers
and broken opt-out links, which are among the few things that the weak
CAN SPAM law forbids. If the spammers had been more careful, the fake
drugs would still be illegal, but it would
have been harder to prosecute them in the US since CAN SPAM wouldn't have
You can read the
NZ release on the CAUCE web site
on the FTC's web site.
I assisted the NZ government as a technical expert, providing advice to
the court explaining how Atkinson's actions matched what the law forbids.
Stable link is https://jl.ly/Email/fifteenmil.html
I have a Capital One Visa card that I haven't used in a long time.
Every few months they send me cash advance checks, and I can see
their increasing desperation as the terms of the checks keep getting
The usual deal is a 2% or 3% transaction fee when you write the check,
then they charge interest starting the day you write the check at a
rate which on my account would be 24.9%. These are such an awful
deal that rather than dropping them in the recycling bin at the post
office, I bring them home and shred them.
A few months ago they started sending checks offering no transaction
fees, which improved them them to merely undesirable, but a few weeks
ago they sent me a set with no fees and small print on the back of
the letter saying they "Are treated as purchases according to the terms
and amendments of your Customer Agreement." Hmmn.
See more ...
Stable link is https://jl.ly/Money/capone.html
19 Nov 2009
ICANN has opened their new fast track
process for "countries and territories that use languages based on
scripts other than Latin" to get domain names that identify the
country or territory in its own language.
It's not clear to me what the policy is supposed to be for countries
whose languages use extended Latin with accents and
other marks that aren't in the ASCII set.
Any country that uses an extended Latin character set can use extended
characters in 2LDs right now, and I can't offhand think of any whose
current unaccented two-letter ccTLD isn't an adequate mnemonic for
their name. But let's say that Serbia feels that .RS is kind of lame,
so they apply for and get .Србија which is perfectly reasonable, since
that's the Cyrillic character set.
Then Romania decides that .RO is too generic, so they ask for .România
with the circumflex over the â, as it is properly spelled in Romanian.
That's an IDN, so how can they say no?
Hey, say the Hungarians, they got their country names, we want
.Magyar. Oh, no, that's ASCII, that will be $185,000 and a highly
uncertain multi-year process. Really?
Stable link is https://jl.ly/ICANN/nonlatin.html
09 Nov 2009
At its recent meeting in Seoul ICANN announced with great fanfare
that it's getting ever closer to adding lots of new Top Level
Domains (TLDs). Despite all the hype, as I have
argued before, new
TLDs will make little difference.
There are two mostly separate kinds of new TLDs. One is TLDs for
countries in non-ASCII character sets, known as IDNs. They're much
less controversial, and ICANN will soon issue at least a few
politically expedient ones like .中国 with the name in Chinese
which would be equivalent to .CN. This is the only real TLD problem,
it was waiting for technical specs and implementation (not from
ICANN), but that is now largely done.
The controversial issue is domains with random new names, gTLDs. I
agree with my old friend Lauren Weinstein that this is a tempest in a very
expensive teapot, because all of the purported reasons that people
want new TLDs have been proven false, and the one actual reason that
a new TLD would be valuable has no public benefit.
See more ...
Stable link is https://jl.ly/ICANN/teapot.html
08 Nov 2009
Banks love it when their customers do their transactions on line, since
it is so much cheaper than when they use a bank-provided ATM, a
phone call center, or, perish forbid, a live human teller.
Customers like it too, since bank web sites are usually open 24/7,
there's no line and no need to find a parking place.
Unfortunately, crooks like on line banking too, since it offers the
possibility of stealing lots of money.
How can banks make their on line transactions more secure?
See more ...
Stable link is https://jl.ly/Money/securetrans.html
My other sites
Who is this guy?
Airline ticket info
CAUCE Welcomes Two New Board Members - Tom Grasso and Allison Nixon
369 days ago
A keen grasp of the obvious
221 days ago
Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail
Network Abuse Clearinghouse