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Microsoft Takes Stands Against Spam, Sanctions

By Jonathan Krim
Thursday, September 23, 2004; Page E01

No matter what one thinks of Microsoft Corp., the company's reach is so expansive that it nearly always makes news, even when there's little or no media attention at the time.

Some recent, and future, examples:

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Microsoft to Share Source Code With Governments (The Washington Post, Sep 21, 2004)
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Microsoft's Homeland Security Efforts (Live Online, Aug 31, 2004)
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Last week, the company filed another lawsuit in its efforts to go after e-mail spammers. But this one broke some new ground.

Rather than going after the spammers, Microsoft is targeting one of their most important enablers: companies that "host" the Web sites of sleazy marketers who are hawking various schemes and scams.

Most spam messages contain links to Web pages with content a scammer wants you to see, from herbal diet pitches to sites that look like a legitimate bank or credit card company asking you to give up your password, Social Security number or other piece of valuable information.

Like most Web sites, those pages are assigned Internet addresses and housed on computers provided by hosting companies. Legitimate hosting firms are quick to pull down sites traced to spammers.

But a group of companies, typically called bulletproof hosts, has emerged largely to serve the spam community. Many of these use computers overseas and offer their clients rotating Internet addresses, so that when a spammer's e-mail address is blocked or blacklisted by Internet traffic cops, new ones are assigned that keep the spammer up and running.

Microsoft sued CheapBulletProof.com, which the software giant claims is among such firms that "actively recruit spammers to use their services by trolling Internet forums frequented by spammers," according to the lawsuit.

The site, which was operational yesterday, advertises that its servers are based in China "to ensure no problems arise from complaints generated by email you send."

Levon Gillespie of California, who describes himself as a partner in the company, denied in an interview via instant message that his company supports spammers.


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