51 Month Prison Sentence for Spammer Ralsky

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51 Month Prison Sentence for Spammer Ralsky

Kevin R. Smith

Few things get the ire of computer folks more than spammers. Even spammers hate getting spam.

What's even worse than spam though is when nefarious techniques including using zobmie PCs (those computers whose security has been compromised by a trojan, worm, or virus to do their bidding, typically without the owners knowledge) to send the spam.

According to the latest conviction, that's what spam "Godfather" Alan M. Ralsky did though.

Washington Post's Security Focus Blog brings us news of the Spam Godfather's Sentence saying,

"Ralsky, 64, of West Bloomfield, Mich., joined two co-conspirators in earning stiff prison sentences for long careers of blasting junk e-mail.

"Following more than four years in prison, Ralsky will be subject to five years of supervised release and will forfeit $250,000 the government seized from him in December 2007, the Justice Department said."

While it's great news for anyone in PC security when someone like finally gets caught, it's especially good news when the dragnet also ensnares cohorts as this one did, naming a total of 10 co-conspirators in the original federal grand jury indictment, including Ralsky and 10 others from China, Canada, Hong Kong and Russia in a 41-count indictment for wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering and violations of the CAN-SPAM Act.

The three things that make the way they were spamming (at least the way they were spamming according to Spamhaus.org), especially egregious were,

  What they did... Why it was especially egregious...
1. Sent spam. Lots and lots and lots. And lots of spam. Does anyone like spam?
2. Used "zombie" PCs to send spam.
  1. Computer users had their resources, quite literally, stolen from them.
  2. While you're wondering why your PC has slowed down, Ralsky et al were using your PCs power and your Internet connection to send spam and make them millions.

    If your drive crashed or network card or modem died because of the extra use and had to be replaced, it's your expense to do so. It cost the group nothing for your trouble.
  3. Innocent PC users got in "trouble" with their ISPs because their PCs were then the sources of the spam coming from Ralsky's group
  4. Those same users then had to take steps to remove the viruses and get back in their ISP's good graces
3. Sent stock "pump-and-dump" spams. According to the government, Ralsky was a top promoter of so-called pump-and-dump scams...

"schemes in which fraudsters buy up a bunch of low-priced microcap stock, blast out millions of spam e-mails touting it as a hot buy and then dump their shares as soon as the share price ticks up from all of the spam respondents buying into the scam.

Now, we all should know better than to open spam to begin with, but for those many people who did and who bought any of the stocks touted by the group, many of these victims had very real financial losses.

It's anyone's guess as to how much.

It's because of groups like these that we all need antispam software and antivirus software to begin with.

We're glad to see yet another spam group get ensnared, making PC security--and the spam in our inboxes--a bit better for us all, and while it took a while, we're glad they finally got their just desserts.


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