Viagra et al. Frozen : FTC and Chicago Judge Shut Down World’s Biggest Spam Ring

Here is welcome news to all Internet users.

Via an ABA Journal Law News Now posting concerning Internet Law, Debra Cassens Weiss alerts us to a case where a federal judge in Chicago has frozen respective assets and issued a temporary injunction against a Viagra and similar product spam operation responsible for sending billions of those Viagra and other messages that clog the world’s mailboxes.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a press release about the case, FTC Shuts Down, Freezes Assets of Vast International Spam E-Mail Network.

Brad Stone at the New York Times in Authorities Shut Down Spam Ring writes:

“This is pretty major. At one point these guys delivered up to one-third of all spam,” said Richard Cox, chief information officer at SpamHaus, a nonprofit antispam research group.

The investigation provides a clear window into the business of modern spam, which by some estimates accounts for 90 percent of all e-mail sent over the Internet.

To pepper Internet users with its solicitations, the HerbalKing group used a botnet, a global network of computers infected with malicious software, often without the knowledge of their owners….

The activities of the HerbalKing group, like those of other criminal groups online, were remarkably international in scope. The group was shipping drugs like Propecia, Lipitor, Celebrex and Zoloft out of India. The F.T.C. also said the group based its Web sites in China, processed credit cards from the former Soviet republic of Georgia and Cyprus, and transferred funds among members using ePassporte, an electronic money network.

Wailin Wong at the Chicago Tribune in Feds bust alleged spam network behind billions of Viagra e-mails, writes regarding the criminal liability of the spammers:

The FTC is working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation but couldn’t comment on the likelihood of criminal charges.

The SpamHaus Project, cited above, “tracks the Internet’s Spammers, Spam Gangs and Spam Services, provides dependable realtime anti-spam protection for Internet networks, and works with Law Enforcement to identify and pursue spammers worldwide.”

SpamHaus writes:

Fines or other penalties are decided at a later phase of the suit. The FTC uses US civil law, not criminal law. But it can refer cases to criminal prosecution, especially in situations where the defendants have violated earlier orders…. Spamhaus is hopeful that further criminal charges may be filed as a result of this civil investigation.