History of email spam

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Main article: Email spam

E-mail spam is the act of sending out unwanted messages to e-mail users. This is a history of spam from 2004 - 2008.


Commercialization of the internet and integration of electronic mail as an accessible means of communication has another face - the influx of unwanted information and mails. As the Internet started to gain popularity in the early 1990s, it was quickly recognized as an excellent advertising tool. At practically no cost, a person can use the Internet to send an email message to thousands of people. These unsolicited junk electronic mails came to be called 'Spam'. History of spam is intertwined with the history of electronic mail.

While the linguistic significance of the usage of the word 'spam' is attributed to the British comedy troupe Monty Python in a now legendary sketch from their Flying Circus TV series, in which a group of Vikings sing a chorus of "SPAM, SPAM, SPAM..." at increasing volumes, the historic significance lies in it being adopted to refer to unsolicited commercial electronic mail sent to a large number of addresses, in what was seen as drowning out normal communication on the Internet.

According to Brad Templeton, founder of ClariNet Communication Corporation, the first business on the Internet, the first email spam was from 1978, and was sent out to all users on ARPANET (several hundred users). It was an ad for a presentation by Digital Equipment Corporation. It was not until 1993 that a USENET posting was called “spam.” In an attempt to implement a retro-moderation system that allowed posts to be deleted after they had been posted, Richard Depew accidentally created a monster. His software, ARMM, had a bug in it which caused it to post 200 messages to news.admin.policy. Readers of this group were making jokes about the accident, one person referring to the incident as “spamming.”

USENET seemed like a natural place to spam. Anyone could see all of the available groups and post to all of them relatively easily. On January 18, 1994, the first large-scale USENET spam occurred. A message with the subject “Global Alert for All: Jesus is Coming Soon” was cross-posted to every available newsgroup. Its controversial message sparked many debates all across USENET, and according to Templeton, the student who posted this message did get in trouble.

In April 1994, spamming first became a business practice. Two lawyers from Phoenix, Canter and Siegel, hired a rogue programmer to post their “Green Card Lottery- Final One?” message to as many newsgroups as possible. What made them different was that they did not hide the fact that they were spammers. They were proud of it, and thought it was great advertising. They even went on to write the book How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway : Everyone’s Guerrilla Guide to Marketing on the Internet and Other On-Line Services. They planned on opening a consulting company to help other people post similar advertisements, but it never took off.

Origins to 2004[edit]


In May 2004, Howard Carmack of Buffalo, New York was sentenced to 3½ to 7 years for sending 800 million messages, using stolen identities. In May 2003 he also lost a $16 million civil lawsuit to Earthlink.[1]

On September 27, 2004, Nicholas Tombros plead guilty to charges and became the first spammer to be convicted under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.[2] He was sentenced in July 2007 to three years probation, six months house arrest, and fined $10,000.[3]

On November 4, 2004, Jeremy Jaynes, rated the 8th most prolific spammer in the world according to Spamhaus, was convicted of three felony charges of using servers in Virginia to send thousands of fraudulent e-mails. The court recommended a sentence of nine years' imprisonment, which was imposed in April 2005 although the start of the sentence was deferred pending appeals. Jaynes claimed to have an income of $750,000 a month from his spamming activities. On February 29, 2008 the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed his conviction.[4]

On November 8, 2004, Nick Marinellis of Sydney, Australia, was sentenced to 4⅓ to 5¼ years for sending Nigerian 419 e-mails.[5]

On December 31, 2004, British authorities arrested Christopher Pierson in Lincolnshire, UK and charged him with malicious communication and causing a public nuisance. On January 3, 2005, he pleaded guilty to sending hoax e-mails to relatives of people missing following the Asian tsunami disaster.


On July 25, 2005, Russian spammer Vardan Kushnir, who is believed to have spammed every single Russian internet user, was found dead in his Moscow apartment, having suffered numerous blunt-force blows to the head. It is believed that Kushnir's murder was unrelated to his spamming activities.[6]

On November 1, 2005, David Levi, 29, of Lytham, England was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to defraud by sending e-mails pretending to be from eBay, his brother Guy Levi, 22, was sentenced to 21 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud, and four others were each sentenced to six months for money laundering.[7]

On November 16, 2005, Peter Francis-Macrae of Cambridgeshire, described as Britain's most prolific spammer, was sentenced to six years in prison.[8]


In January 2006, James McCalla was ordered to pay $11.2 Billion to an ISP in Iowa and barred from using the Internet for 3 years for sending 280 million e-mail messages.[9]

On June 28, 2006, IronPort released a study which found 80% of spam emails originating from zombie computers. The report also found 55 billion daily spam emails in June 2006, a large increase from 35 billion daily spam emails in June 2005. The study used SenderData which represents 25% of global email traffic and data from over 100,000 ISP's, universities, and corporations.

On August 8, 2006, AOL announced the intention of digging up the garden of the parents of spammer Davis Wolfgang Hawke in search of buried gold and platinum.[10] AOL had been awarded a US$12.8 million judgment in May 2005 against Hawke, who had gone into hiding. The permission for the search was granted by a judge after AOL proved that the spammer had bought large amounts of gold and platinum.[11] In July, 2007, AOL decided not to proceed.[12]

On October 12, 2006, Brian Michael McMullen, 22, of East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was sentenced to three years supervised release, five months home detention and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $11,848.55 for violating the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.[13]

On October 27, 2006, the Federal Court of Australia fined Clarity1 A$4.5 million (US$3.4 million; euro2.7 million) and its director Wayne Mansfield A$1 million (US$760,000; euro600,000) for sending unsolicited e-mails in the first conviction under Australia's Spam Act of 2003.[14]

In November 2006, Christopher William Smith (aka Chris "Rizler" Smith) was convicted on 9 counts for offenses related to Smith's spamming.


On January 16, 2007, an Azusa, California man was convicted by a jury in United States District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles in United States v. Goodin, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, 06-110, under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (the first conviction under that Act).[15] He was sentenced to and began serving a 70-month sentence on June 11, 2007.[16]

On May 30, 2007, notorious spammer Robert Soloway was arrested after having been indicted by a federal grand jury on 35 charges including mail fraud, wire fraud, e-mail fraud, identity theft, and money laundering.[17] If convicted, he could face decades behind bars.[18] Bail was initially denied although he was released to a half way house in September. On March 14, 2008, Robert Soloway reached an agreement with federal prosecutors, two weeks before his scheduled trial on 40 charges. Soloway pleaded guilty to three charges — felony mail fraud, fraud in connection with e-mail, and failing to file a 2005 tax return.[19] In exchange, federal prosecutors dropped all other charges. Soloway faced up to 26 years in prison on the most serious charge, and up to $625,000 total in fines. On 22 July 2008 Robert Soloway was sentenced four years in federal prison.[20]

On June 25, 2007, two men were each convicted on eight counts including conspiracy, fraud, money laundering, and transportation of obscene materials in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, Arizona. The prosecution is the first of its kind under the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, according to a release from the Department of Justice.[21] One count for each under the act was for falsifying headers, the other was for using domain names registered with false information. The two had been sending millions of hard-core pornography spam e-mails.[22] The two men were sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit US$1.3 million.[23]


On July 20, 2008, Eddie Davidson walked away from a federal prison camp in Florence, Colorado. He was subsequently found dead in Arapahoe County, Colorado, after reportedly killing his wife and three-year-old daughter, in an apparent murder-suicide.[24]

August 19: A survey on Marshal Limited's website (an e-mail and Internet content security company) showed that 29.1% of the 622 respondents had bought something from a spam email.[25] Other studies, one by Forrester Research in 2004, which surveyed 6,000 active Web users, reported 20 percent had bought something from spam, while a 2005 study by Mirapoint and the Radicati Group showed 11%, and 57% indicated that clicking on a link in spam caused them to receive more spam than before.[26] A 2007 study by Endai Worldwide (an e-mail marketing company) showed 16% had bought something from spam.[27] In response to the Marshal study, the Download Squad started their own study. With 289 respondents, only 2.1% indicated they had ever bought something from a spam e-mail.[28]

November 11: McColo, a San Jose, California-based hosting provider identified as hosting spamming organizations, was cut off by its Internet providers. It is estimated that McColo hosted the machines responsible for 75 percent of spam sent worldwide. McColo's upstream service was severed on Tuesday, November 11; that same afternoon, organizations tracking spam noted a sharp decrease in the volume being sent; some as much as a half.[29]





See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buffalo Spammer Sentenced to Prison
  2. ^ 'Wardriver' first to be convicted under US anti-spam law, Richard Shim, CNETNews.com, October 1, 2004
  3. ^ War-Driving Pornographic Spammer Escapes Jail Time
  4. ^ Court Opinion
  5. ^ Nigerian 419 Scam Spammer Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
  6. ^ "Russia’s Biggest Spammer Brutally Murdered in Apartment". mosnews.com. 2005-07-25. Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  7. ^ Man is sentenced in phishing fraud November 2014
  8. ^ U.K. spammer sentenced to 6 years
  9. ^ The $11 Billion Man
  10. ^ Colin Barker (2006-08-16). "AOL goes digging for spammer's gold". CNET Networks. Archived from the original on 2013-01-20. Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  11. ^ Associated Press (2006-08-15). "AOL to dig for gold at home of spammer’s folks". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-01-06.  the original link, http://www.businessweek.com/ap/tech/D8JH5OI80.htm, has expired
  12. ^ AOL gives up treasure hunt
  13. ^ Spammer sentenced to five months at confinement center
  14. ^ Australian business fined over spam e-mails
  15. ^ Edvard Pettersson (2006-01-16). "California Man Guilty of Defrauding AOL Subscribers, U.S. Says". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  16. ^ California Man Gets 6-Year Sentence For Phishing
  17. ^ "United States of America v. Robert Alan Soloway; warrant for arrest". 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  18. ^ "'Spam King' suspect seized". Seattle Post Intelligencer. 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  19. ^ Carter, Mike (2008-03-15). "'Spam king' pleads guilty to felony fraud". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  20. ^ "Top Spammer Sentenced to Nearly Four Years". Yahoo. 2008-07-22. 
  21. ^ Jury convicts two men for running international pornographic spamming business
  22. ^ Two Men Convicted Of Spamming Pornography Accessed on 26 June 2007
  23. ^ Tracy McVeigh (2007-10-14). "Porn spammers jailed for five years". London: Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved 2007-10-14. 
  24. ^ Prosecutor: Escaped Colorado convict, wife and daughter found dead in apparent murder-suicide
  25. ^ Sex, Drugs and Software Lead Spam Purchase Growth
  26. ^ Spam Prompts 11% Of Computer Users To Buy
  27. ^ Blame Spam Fans for Junk Email
  28. ^ Survey
  29. ^ Major source of online scams and spams knocked offline

Further reading[edit]