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?

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Comments on “Sanford Wallace Loses Again; Owes Facebook $711 Million”

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51 Comments
Rich Kulawiec says:

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.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Rich Kulawiec says:

Re: 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.

Chucklebutte (profile) says:

???

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

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

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).

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

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….

Rich Kulawiec says:

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.

Doctor Strange says:

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.

tracker1 (profile) says:

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.

Michael Vilain (profile) says:

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.

Some Random (profile) says:

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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