CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1997 // August 6 //
Jacking in from the "Slam the Spam" Port:
By Lewis Z. Koch
Special correspondent CyberWire Dispatch
Do I have your attention? I know I have your attention.
Granted, "Fuck you" is an unpleasant way of getting your attention, especially in reasonably polite society. And if this kind of in-your-face, attention-getting device were to occur several times a day, well, it might not be surprising then if the greeting were judged as akin to "fighting words," words that the Supreme Court has long defined as excluded from First Amendment protection.
Fighting words have been conceptualized by the Court as words "likely to provoke the average person to retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of the peace," yet every day, people are receiving a "Fuck You" invasion of their computers, their peace breached by unwanted, undesired, distasteful E-mail a form known universally as "spam."
Today spammers say "Fuck you" via your computer five or ten times a day. Next month, or next year, it may be fifty times a day. This is just a sample of a sample dredged from a single day of my E-mail:
"Forgive me for taking a moment of your time. But here is the IDEAL Christmas gift...ten traditional Christmas carols recorded in REAL, HARD ROCK versions." (Note: this is August and I am Jewish.)
Or this (regardless of ethnicity) "*Sexy *Erotic *Lewd and Desirable LIVE NUDE DANCES -24 hours a day." (Lewd AND Desirable?)
Yet, for the most part, recipients are unable to retaliate in force or in kind, in such a way as the Court might well approve. The "self-help" remedy of reaching out to the spammers machines and turning off the outbound flow at the source falls afoul of most states', and countries' computer crime laws.
Joe and Jane Citizen-User find themselves hapless, captive targets of this daily assault because spammers use their cunning to invade your personal computer yet all the while hiding their identity. Where can we go for redress? Wait! What's that I hear? From out of the West-it's the thundering hoofbeats of the great horse Silver! There, over there on the horizon, a masked man, sitting a top on a white stallion, crying out, "Hi Ho Silver! Awwaaayyyy"
Who is that masked man?
It's the Lone Ranger, only this time he's called "Hacker X." The Lone Ranger, aka Hacker X, posted today, for the second time in six months, the password file for SpamMeister Sanford Wallace's Cyberpromo server to various Usenet newsgroups including alt.2600, alt.news and news.misc.
Hacker X previously posted the names, addresses and yes, phone numbers of Wallace's clients. Needless to say, Wallace was outraged. He posted a reward and called the FBI.
Nothing much happened except that Wallace's clients received many, many irate phone calls.
Wallace, and spammeisters are as irrepressible as they are greedy. Our "in" boxes continue to be filled with trash, like the drunk who hurls his empty whiskey bottle against our front porch steps, already littered with the shards of empty whiskey bottles tossed away by passing drunks/spammiesters.
Hacker X also deserves some plaudits from the gay community as his renegade Usenet posting includes the evidence that Wallace offers support for serious hate mongering in housing the "godhatesfags.com" domain and lists the password and attendant IP information for that as well.
Along with this treasure drove of mined data, Hacker X also published a note/rant of his own:
"As I assumed, Mr. Wallace has not learned his lesson from the last time I talked to you, so I decided to go a bit father this time, post up more information, from more systems, and a little bit of news on what that low-life degenerate, festering pile of goo is doing in front of his keyboard, behind your backs, right under your noses... "Sanford Wallace uses the same password on every machine, and the same root password as his regular password. Guess he has no admin. What a class operation Not exactly rocket science. His userid is wallace, with a Password of "sTUv6x8r." Guessed the root password yet? Go knock yourself out."
After the first assault by Hacker X, Wallace reportedly offered a $15,000.00 reward - reportedly, that is, if you want to take his Spamship's word for it that he would pay anyone $15,000.00 for anything. Wallace also said he alerted the FBI to the hack. Now, the likelihood of an FBI task force doing some kind of federal step-and-fetch-it routine to help Wallace seems to be about zero, especially considering that there are some people in the Justice Department who don't much particularly believe in spammers' rights to spam and have the power to say "no" to the FBI. Besides, the FBI had better be chasing and locking down every subway-bombing terrorist before they start devoting energy to satisfying demands by wealthy, irate spammers.
"Contrary to Wallace's claim, he didn't catch me," says Hacker X, "My thanks go out to all of you who offered up your support in advance (defense fund and so on). It was greatly appreciated. If you want to show your support, send the funds to the NAACP college fund - they could put it to better use."
To the hackers who trashed Wallace's Web site, Hacker X had this sage advice, "Those of you who decided to make changes to Mr. Wallace's web page - please, PLEASE clean up after yourselves. If you can't clean up, you probably should just leave it, as you will be caught." Hacker X also offered a warning note to "the folks at Netcom. Mr. Wallace has a script that fingers @netcom.com every 10 minutes, and sifts for new users to add to a list. Netcom is a complete waste of bandwidth and I can't stand them and their users for the most part, but some of them are actually cool, and deserve SOME sort of notification of what that sleezebag is doing to them."
Spam is increasing not decreasing. Spammer self-regulation? In this instance, it's more like self-abuse. They're not only going to do it until they need glasses, they're likely to do it even if they were to go blind. I am a First Amendment purist and believe that those rights even extend to advertising. But the First Amendment also gives me the right to be left alone. I choose to get E-mail and I receive over 250 a day from organizations and lists I have chosen to ask for E-mail. My choice.
Spammers, on the other hand, are forcing their way into my computer, into my mind. Spam E-mail is a physical invasion, a physical intrusion. It is their "Fuck you" to me. No choice. No choice but to fight back, or at least support those who are fighting for me. One group, CAUCE is fighting by being uncompromising in their lobbying for a flat out ban on unsolicited commercial mail.
Spamford Wallace is an Internet outlaw who has violated the basic open tenets upon which the Net was built. If the citizens of Netville and the Net marshals can't stop the outlaw spammers - then it's time call for the Lone Ranger.
Hi ho Silver, Aaaaaaawaaaay (with spam).
Lewis Z. Koch <email@example.com> is an investigative reporter and former NBC correspondent.
[Note:. If you want one just one killer-complete story about unsolicited bulk e-mail, check out Barry D. Bowen's 6,200 word, three sidebars plus extensive resources piece at the Sun-World site.