Sanford Wallace Loses Again; Owes Facebook $711 Million

from the good-luck-collecting dept

Sanford "Spamford" Wallace, of course, was the original "spam king" back in the 1990s. Despite his claim to have reformed at one point, he apparently has been spamming various social networks and advertising spyware. Back in 2004, the FTC investigated him and fined him $4 million. Last year, MySpace won a $234 million judgment against him. Wallace responded by disappearing. At one point, even his lawyer couldn't find him. Earlier this year, when Facebook sued him for spamming their users as well, it seemed unlikely that he would bother to respond. Surprising pretty much everyone, he showed up in court, though claimed he was totally bankrupt. Either way, Facebook has just been awarded a $711 million judgment against him. Facebook, of course, will never see a dime of that money. But, the real question is what else can be done to stop Wallace. He's been spamming for well over a decade at this point, and despite multiple multi-million dollar judgments against him, he hasn't stopped. What else can be done?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Rich Kulawiec, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:03am

    Which illustrates a fundamental point...

    ...that there is no such thing as an ex-spammer. Not in the recorded history of spamming.

    There's really no difference, other than strategy and tactics, between Spamford or anyone else who's in the abuse business. Whether it's spam or phishing or spyware or any of the other myriad interconnected "enterprises" out there, the profits are high, the risks are low, and no government entity on this planet has yet shown itself to be equipped with the clue and the motivation to take any effective action.

    So the best that can be done is to protect oneself and one's networks/systems/users, on the presumption that these bad actors will never stop -- they'll only change their approach from time to time, as old methods stop working and new ones emerge. On the other hand, there's precisely zero reason to waste time on legislative/judicial approaches, since all of these to date have been total failures.

    As we see again, in this case.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:06am

    A helpful suggestion from Lord Helmet

    "What else can be done?"

    Well, I like a bit of irony in my vindictive retribution, so here's a thought:

    First, upon capture, you lock wallace into a pen, strip him down, and chain his hands and feet. Then you literally cover his body from top to bottom in animal shortening, to make him sticky. Working a deal out with Hormel, you then allow any member of the public who wishes to sign a small piece of Spam, maybe with a message to Wallace on it, and slap it on his sticky body, making sure it stays there. At the end of several days of this treatment, he will be literally covered head to toe in Hormel brand spam.

    On day five you take several pictures of him and post them all over the place. As Wallace shouts at you and demands to know when this humiliation will cease, you smile and tell him that it's over. He's made it through.

    Inevitably he'll demand that you get the spam off of him. That's when you smile, nod, and release the 37 starving pigs you have in the next pen. They'll go through the spam, animal shortening, and Wallace's body matter in mere minutes, Snatch style.

    Or, hey, maybe you just throw his ass in jail, your call...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:11am

    The problem is enforceability of the judgements. Wallace, if he has any money, has long since put that money far out of the reach of any judgements. With appeals, delays, and all sorts of other tactics, it can take years to get a completed judgement, and by then the assets are long gone.

    Heck, look at TPB. With careful weaseling of fact, fiction, and that grey area in the middle, they have lead the industry types and the courts around in circles for a long time. It's very sad, and another indication of the era we live in.

     

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    Shawn (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:22am

    something regarding the use of explosives comes to mind.

     

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    John Dow, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:26am

    3 strikes and your out?

    How about a 3 strikes law for spammers? Oh wait, probably won't be any more effective than for pirates. But why let that stop a perfectly bad law?

     

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    Sam, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:27am

    The only option left is releasing Facebook Black Ops Customer Care with Extreme Prejudice.

     

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    DenisMoskowitz (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    The amount of annoyance he's caused, in person-hours, is easily well over the length of a human life. It's a shame we can't charge him for murder based on that.

     

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      Rich Kulawiec, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:48am

      Re:

      The amount of annoyance he's caused, in person-hours, is easily well over the length of a human life. It's a shame we can't charge him for murder based on that.

      I find that interesting, because it's precisely the same reasoning that I've used to argue that spamming should be a capital offense. If you do some simple math on a medium-size spam run, say, half a billion messages, adjust for those that get blocked, and then pick a sensible number for the time it takes a person to deal with those messages (lets say, 5 seconds), it quickly becomes obvious that individual spammers are stealing time by the lifetime -- and of course it's the most precious commodity we've got, because without it, we have nothing else.

      Now multiply by the organized gangs of spammers out there, especially the spammers-for-hire, and the total really escalates.

      Nothing will be done about this -- except that all the ISPs, mail hosts, web hosts, etc., who cheerfully host all these spammers (for profit) will continue to sell anti-spam services to the victims (for profit) and those who attempt to hold them accountable for this will be marginalized.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    The Russians had a solution a while back where they took the guy out his house and made a public example of him. Spam took a noticeable dip for about a week.
    So ship him to Russia.

     

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    astontechno (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    godfather

    a line from the godfather comes to mind........

    "who's being naive, Kay? If history has taught us

    anything is that anyone can be _ _ _ _ _ _ ."

     

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    dan, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Make spam a federal offense

    Just jail his ass and be done with it.

     

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    Jake, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 7:57am

    I don't think there is a good solution. If being sued to the point of financial ruin doesn't deter him then I doubt a couple of years of jail time will work either. Nor do I care for the precedent that would by set by handing someone a custodial sentence for being a bloody nuisance.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    They just need to legally be allow to collect the money from the advertisers that used his spamming service once he runs out of money.
    After all it is the advertisers that a encouraging his illegal spamming actives.

     

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    Alex, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:10am

    Vigilantes?

    Just keep tabs on him and publish his location often to twitter or something people watch... problem will take care of itself.

     

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    CDWatters, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:11am

    Spammer Punishment

    Invite all of the sysadmins who've had to clean up his crap to the LA Coliseum with a baseball bat. Drop Spamford at the 50 yard line from 20 meters up from a helicopter. Whatever of him can get out alive can continue to spam.

     

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      Sean T Henry (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:22am

      Re: Spammer Punishment

      Or remove a finger for each judgement against him starting with the non-dominate index finger then the dominate index then move to the thumb and so on and so forth.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Cruel and Unusual Punishment

    There is no legal precedent to this, AFAIK, but I would like to propose that he is forced to work standard hours for AOL Customer Service/Tech Support for the period of one week, or whenever his spirit is truly broken, whichever happens last.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:28am

    Lock him up wth a sentence of 711 million days of community service to work off the judgment or send Mitch Rapp after him and remove him from the gene pool.

     

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    Chucklebutte (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:47am

    ???

    Um... Is there any money in spam? Really? Who would pay for something that doesnt work? Who really checks spam? Who really checks spam mail and takes "advantage" of the offerings?

    I just dont see how it is profitable... I just really dont. Only money in spam that I can see is from companies that offer up "protection" from spam.... Like antivirus companies... I wonder, call me crazy but, could these companies be behind the problem? Cause all the spam then offer a way to eliminate it? Or maybe I have been reading too many Dark Helmet posts... lol

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 9:10am

      Re: ???

      You've been reading too many DH posts.

      But you're on the right track questioning the money. There would be no point in spamming if people didn't fall for it. The problem is, people fall for it. Not a lot, but enough.

      The best way to deal with spammers is educating their targets. If no one clicked on spam links, the spammers wouldn't make money and they would stop.

      As for Spamford, he needs his access to electronic devices taken away. If he is found to be using them, then it's a violation of a court order and that would fit with jail time. (Note how I didn't say for how long).

       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 9:22am

        Re: Re: ???

        "You've been reading too many DH posts."

        I'm flattered, guys, but actually with malware I don't really see any vast conspiracy by the AV/AS or security vendors to produce malware. The reason for that is I work pretty closely with a company that makes network security appliances, Spam filter included, and they actually build a large part of their blacklists through the open source community. That indicates that this stuff is out there and that enough people are looking at it in some detail that you'd expect flags to be raised if anything hinky was going on.

        That, plus situations like with Spamford where you can actually put a name to a face with who's doing this shit. My mind has no trouble extrapolating Spamford to hundereds of others like him located in belligerant countries trying to do us harm.

        But I think it's silly for anyone to think that a company like Symantec would actually want to completely solve the virus issue once and for all. As i there was some type of skeleton key software code that just blocked everything bad with no false positives...Symantec would do everything in their power to hide that code....

         

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      Rich Kulawiec, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:56am

      Re: ???

      Yes, there's a LOT of money in spam. Have you not read any of the case studies out there which have exhaustively answered your question? Are you not aware that they are operations with deep ties to criminal operations (e.g., the RBN) and others which have been so profitable that they're engaged in IPOs? Have you not studied the history of spamming and grasped its relationship to other forms of abuse (like phishing, domain squatting, etc.)?

      If not, then of course you won't see how it's profitable.

      There's a fortune to be made with spam and spyware and SEO and related forms of abuse. That's why so many people are doing it -- most of them poorly, but there are some that are quite good at it and make worthy adversaries. And thanks to their careful planning and execution, they now have the resources to employ some of the sharpest minds available -- writing code, finding holes in defenses, inventing new forms of abuse, etc. They're not all bumblers like Spamford.

       

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    Admin, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 8:53am

    Oh well

    As an Admin, Spamford's actions have kept me employed and paid well for years. I have no complaints and suspect I will be 'well' employed for a long time to come!

     

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    Doctor Strange, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 9:08am

    I'm confused as to the hate here. I thought that using the legal system to solve a market problem was verboten? Clearly Mr Wallace has done what, for example, record companies can't: use the Internet to effectively market his goods. He has a working business model, so the market has decided his services are valuable. Also, we all know that "spam" is inevitable: email is an infinite good and Mr Wallace is taking advantage of that by making an infinite amount of them. If you don't like it, you have a simple answer: close your email accounts. It's silly to try to artificially limit email or charge for it, so why worry? And more importantly, why legislate?

    Look at the size of those judgments also. They're Jammie Thomas sized. Can any of the injured parties actually demonstrate that he has caused $711 million in damages? Hopefully such a ridiculous judgment will demonstrate to people how out-of-control the law is.

     

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    tracker1 (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 9:38am

    The answer is simple...

    Allow/encourage federal employees to make use of social networks. Charge those that spam and distribute malware with felony charges, throw their asses in prison for 10 years. If an infection of a government system can be shown (even if an assistant's desktop), charge with treason, and shoot the bastard.

    The rest will sort itself out... I keep saying that once spammers start showing up with bullets in their head, there will be fewer spammers.

     

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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:05am

    Idea from earlier.

    I like the idea from earlier: Take the judgments from the companies that hired him. If I hire someone to perform an illegal act, I am just as guilty as the person performing said act. Make it very costly/risky to hire someone to spam and the market should sort it out.

    Just saying.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:17am

    Just shoot the bastard

    that is all.

     

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    Kim Claudio, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:19am

    This is a shame that spammers do this it is not cool when they spam it hold ups loading your sites and other important things you have to do when you are on these sites.

     

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    IhateSpammers, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:23am

    .45 cal.

    pop...pop.

    that's it. 75 cents and a second of time..

     

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    Overcast (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 10:50am

    Put 711 collection agencies on his ass - that'll teach him.

     

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    Dohn Joe, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Say Thanks?

    "What else can be done?"

    I dunno, commend him for his part in battle-hardening this sissy internet of ours?

     

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    Michael Vilain, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 11:20am

    A solution has already been published

    In a recent novel (DAEMON by Daniel Suarez) a set of automata running on "the Internet" start after the death of their creator, owner of a gaming company (and master gamer, natch). One of the "batch jobs" that's run is "ALL SPAMMERS MUST DIE", where people in the "game" are sent parts to assemble untraceable weapons that are used to assassinate some 4000 people world-wide. After that, the 'Net is a much nicer, quieter place.

    Rather contrived and a sysadmin's wet dream, but what the what. It was fiction. And it's probably not going to win any awards. But it might become a TV mini-series. If an example is made of Mr. Wallace by extraditing him to Russia or incarcerating him for 40 years and we go after the advertisers who use spam maybe people will get the idea.

     

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    Pwdrskir (profile), Oct 30th, 2009 @ 12:17pm

    Three stikes rule

    Why isn't a 3 strikes rule put up for this kind of BS?

     

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    howtogetagirl, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Spammer Stopped

    It's about time he got caught. I only wish they could catch all of them. I work as a PC Tech and our mail server gets hit with tons of spam. It's a real pain.

     

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    Chris R, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    great comments

    I've read some really great comments. I'm inclined to treat every for that asks for information with extreme prejudice.

    I will never give out any information that I don't want the world to see.

    I expect the email I use for this comment to be defunct within a year.

     

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    Chrystal K., Oct 30th, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Chris...What does your comment even mean?

     

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    Acme Fixer, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 4:32pm

    Spamford Wallace owes Facebook $711 Million

    Take him out to the firing squad and execute him. Spammers are the scum of the earth, and don't deserve any better. Especially Spamford.

     

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    Acme Fixer, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 4:42pm

    @ Chucklebutte

    Re: antivirus companies "Cause all the spam then offer a way to eliminate it" statement.

    I think it should be blamed on the company that made the software so lame to begin with that it needed to have antivirus protection, etc.

    In other words, another operating system should take care of most of the problem.

     

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    Some Random, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 5:27pm

    crowdsourced punishment

    Why just shoot this guy? I kind of like dark helmets idea but I couldn't help but put in my thoughts as well.

    Put him in a chamber without a window bed or toilet. Place a locked down terminal in the wall behind some bulletproof glass. Have it display nothing but spam messages. Put some speakers behind metal grills to read the spam to him. Feed him only Spam, bread and water. Force him to consume all those pills his spam advertises as often and as much as a doctor deems reasonably safe. Any side effects that don’t result in death are considered reasonably safe. Continue this until his mind is broken.

    Televise the entire affair. Subtitle it in various languages. Distribute it online.

     

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    Ron d, Oct 30th, 2009 @ 9:22pm

    A Million Here, A Million There...

    Ouch! A million here, a million there and soon you are talking real money.

    Ron D

     

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    Kristi Kristo, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 5:05am

    this guys are rich

    well, the owner of fb is very rich right now :) his idea 4 creating fb has made a revolution in the internet world. and he deserves those moneys :)

     

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    gjhj, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 7:50am

    Just when you thought Christian Audigier had reached the pinnacle of edginess and success with Ed Hardy and his signature line, Christian Audigier, think again. The Godfather of couture casual wear has taken his passion for Rock and Roll, and teamed up with his idol, Johnny Halladay to create SMET. SMET is Johnny Halladay’s natural born name. The representative phrase “Born on the Street” was coined to pay homage to his roots. It is also a metaphor for the origin of all innovative ideas. With Johnny’s experience and artistic influence paired with Christian’s fashion mastermind, SMET has already created a niche for itself world-wide.The latest brand is best described as alternative urban street wear with a nod to classic rock style. Just as Ed Hardy is best known for the tattoo art with rhinestone detail, and Christian Audigier Signature Brand best known for the eccentric designs and gold couture embellishments; SMET has a personality all its own. The use of flocking and foiling on the vintage-inspired t-shirts pairs well with a leather jacket and chrome jewelry. In addition, the studding and two-toned detail on the SMET hoodies and vinyl wear completes an outfit of tapered jeans and biker boots. It doesn’t matter if you are planning a night out at Los Angeles’ famed rock bar, The Whiskey, or a weekend trip to Vegas, pieces from this clothing line can be mixed and matched with almost anything fashionable in the genre of rock, goth, and sheer individualism.

     

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    mass comm major, Oct 31st, 2009 @ 9:57am

    put him to use!

    use his decades worth of spamming experience as a propaganda weapon against other countries. cyber warfare ain't all about stealing information and sabotaging infrastructure.

     

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    well..., Oct 31st, 2009 @ 10:11am

    two options spring to mind:

    1. someone sues him directly for harassment....defiance of a court order = prison

    2. give him 1 days prison for every spam mail sent..thats a couple of million days at least (without even trying)....

    3. house arrest with no pc or telephone etc for maybe 10-15years for "industrial espionage/sabotage"

     

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    Navin Johnson, Mar 18th, 2010 @ 6:52am

    What has to happen, clearly, is the charges need to be elevated to criminal ones. I am sure that the fraud he is responsible for and the damage he has done to the reputations of several antivirus companies, can more than merit such charges. That said, I suppose if that were true, he would have been charged by now..

     

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    merchant loans, Jul 27th, 2011 @ 5:39am

    If they cant beat him, they should ask him to join them.

     

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