Anti-Spammer Fined For DNS Lookup Of Spammer

from the ouch dept

Anti-spam activists often need to do quite a bit of hunting to track down the real identity of various spammers. Over the years, spammers have become increasingly adept at hiding from those trying to shine light on their activities. However, when one well-known anti-spammer used some standard whois and DNS lookup tools (the same kind many of us use every day) to find out the identity of a spammer, the spammer sued him... and won! The anti-spammer has to pay over $60,000 in fines, and possibly much more once lawyers' fees are added up. The judge ruled that some rather basic tools suddenly constituted "hacking" even though the details don't suggest any actual hacking. The anti-spammer simply used the tools available to get the information necessary. He didn't need to break through any security or do anything malicious to get the info. If you read the ruling, it sounds like a judge could define plenty of perfectly normal online activities as "hacking." Update: There's a good discussion in the comments, suggesting that there's a lot more going on here than is clear from the article itself. The judge's finding of facts suggest that the anti-spammer did some questionable things, including lying and ignoring an injunction -- which certainly hurt his case. However, others are suggesting that the judge's finding of facts are incorrect and there's much more to this story that will come out on appeal.

Filed Under: anti-spam, fines


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  1. identicon
    Gruff, 18 Jan 2008 @ 3:48pm

    Re: Dog Pile!!

    Ritz is alleged to have done a lot more than make a "DNS query" that was deemed either illegal or from which he had been enjoined.

    Nope. Ritz performed the DNS query on February 27, 2005. The injunction wasn't issued until August 4, 2005.

    I don't have the transcripts, nor will I as they appear to have been sealed. Unless the allegations are false, it does appear that Ritz acted like a common criminal hacker especially after being barred from doing so.

    Nor do I have the transcripts, but the finding says that he visited some websites after the injunction. It may have violated the injunction, but I wouldn't call it "common criminal hacker" behavior.

    If Ritz had claimed, which he seems to not have done, that the Sierra DNS servers were in fact public-facing DNS servers desinged to propagate Sierra DNS information, I believe the outcome from his DNS Zone Transfer request may have been different

    We don't know since the transcripts are sealed (how convenient) but I would expect that he probably did make such a claim which the judge, after admittedly rejecting expert testimony, ignored.

    Sierra seems to have clamed that those were private DNS servers (presumably for use from solely within the Sierra network), and therefore NOT public-facing.

    This is where things get confusing. I don't see where Sierra made that claim in the finding, but the judge did say "The private host name could not be ascertained from any publicly available source and were only known to Ritz by virtue of the zone transfer." So Judge herself said that those DNS servers were not "publicly available". This is crucial and really conflicts with the rest of the story. That would mean that he had to crack through a firewall or something like that to get to an internal network and there is no reference to any activities like that anywhere in the finding. Something's really fishy about that. After all, Ritz's whole defense as I understood it was that the DNS servers WERE public-facing and he didn't crack anything.

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