AOL spammer pleads guilty to sending 1.2m unsolicited emails

A US man has pleaded guilty to sending unsolicited email to 1.2 million AOL subscribers.

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A US man has pleaded guilty to sending unsolicited email to 1.2 million AOL subscribers.

Adam Vitale, who filed the guilty plea, and co-defendant Todd Moeller were in contact with a government confidential informant via instant messaging, and agreed to send spam advertisements for a product in exchange for half of the profits, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael Garcia said.

The pair then sent about 1.2m unsolicited emails to AOL users between 17 and 23 August 2005. They changed the headers on the emails and used various computers to conceal the source of the spam.

Vitale faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or double the maximum gain or loss resulting from the offence. Sentencing is scheduled for 13 September. Moeller will stand trial for the same charges.

One observer felt the legal victory was somewhat hollow. "I think this is a moral victory for AOL, but not much else," said Adam O'Donnell, director of emerging technologies at security firm Cloudmark.

"The economic motivations underlying abuse mean some other spammer has already taken his place, and it is likely the spammer's replacement is coming from outside American jurisdiction."

In a separate case, Project Honey Pot, a service provided by anti-spam company Unspam Technologies, launched a lawsuit in April in a bid to cut down spam. The legal action filed in the US courts is aimed at those responsible for harvesting e-mail addresses on behalf of spammers.

Among the terabytes of data Project Honey Point has collected are more than 6m spam emails, 2.5m IP addresses from which spam was sent and about 15,000 IP addresses belonging to email harvesters.

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