Plea deal in 'war spamming' prosecution

Porn mails sent over Wi-Fi networks


A Los Angeles man accused of using other people's Wi-Fi networks to send thousands of unsolicited adult-themed emails has entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors in a case filed under the criminal provisions of the federal CAN SPAM Act, officials confirmed Friday.

Nicholas Tombros, 37, was scheduled to enter a guilty plea Friday afternoon in federal court in Los Angeles, but the hearing was abandoned when judge Percy Anderson learned the defense attorney who'd signed off on the deal had been hospitalized and could not appear in court. "[Tombros] said that he wanted to take some time, so the judge scheduled us for a status conference in two weeks," says assistant US attorney Wesley Hsu, who's prosecuting the case.

Tombros' phone number is unlisted, and his new attorney did not return a phone call Friday.

Tombros was charged last month with a single felony under the criminal provisions of the CAN SPAM Act. He allegedly drove around the Los Angeles beachfront suburb of Venice with a laptop and a Wi-Fi antenna sniffing out unsecured residential access points, which he then used to send thousands of untraceable spam messages advertising pornography sites. An FBI spokesperson said Tombros obtained the email addresses from a credit card aggregation company where he used to work.

The CAN-SPAM Act, which took effect 1 January, doesn't criminalize unsolicited bulk commercial email, but it does outlaw most of the deceptive practices used by spammers. Tombros was charged under a provision that prohibits breaking into someone else's computer to send spam. Also outlawed is the practice of deliberately crafting spammy messages to disguise the origin; materially falsifying the headers in spam; spamming from five or more email accounts established under fake names; or hijacking five or more IP addresses and spamming from them.

A first-time violator face up to one year in federal stir for a small-time operation - three years if he or she meets one of several minimum standards of bad behavior, like leading a spam gang of at least three people, sending over 2,500 messages in one day, or using 10 or more falsely-registered domain names. As charged, Tombros faced the higher-tier sentence for the "especially complex and especially intricate offense conduct" of allegedly laundering his spam through wireless networks. Hsu wouldn't comment on the details of the plea agreement, and Tombros remains free to back out of the deal.

The criminal provisions of the Act were first exercised last April, when officials charged four Detroit-area men with sending nearly half-a-million deceptive messages through hijacked proxy servers.

Tombros' next court appearance is scheduled for 17 September.

"Over time spammers have shown that they will use any method that they feel they can use to send email," says Andrew Kirch, a security admin at the Abusive Hosts Blocking List. "We may be looking at an isolated incident, or we may be looking at the next big thing."

Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus logo

Related stories

Spammers embrace email authentication
US cracks down on spam mountain
US tops junk mail Dirty Dozen - again


Other stories you might like

  • AI tool finds hundreds of genes related to human motor neuron disease

    Breakthrough could lead to development of drugs to target illness

    A machine-learning algorithm has helped scientists find 690 human genes associated with a higher risk of developing motor neuron disease, according to research published in Cell this week.

    Neuronal cells in the central nervous system and brain break down and die in people with motor neuron disease, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the baseball player who developed it. They lose control over their bodies, and as the disease progresses patients become completely paralyzed. There is currently no verified cure for ALS.

    Motor neuron disease typically affects people in old age and its causes are unknown. Johnathan Cooper-Knock, a clinical lecturer at the University of Sheffield in England and leader of Project MinE, an ambitious effort to perform whole genome sequencing of ALS, believes that understanding how genes affect cellular function could help scientists develop new drugs to treat the disease.

    Continue reading
  • Need to prioritize security bug patches? Don't forget to scan Twitter as well as use CVSS scores

    Exploit, vulnerability discussion online can offer useful signals

    Organizations looking to minimize exposure to exploitable software should scan Twitter for mentions of security bugs as well as use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System or CVSS, Kenna Security argues.

    Better still is prioritizing the repair of vulnerabilities for which exploit code is available, if that information is known.

    CVSS is a framework for rating the severity of software vulnerabilities (identified using CVE, or Common Vulnerability Enumeration, numbers), on a scale from 1 (least severe) to 10 (most severe). It's overseen by First.org, a US-based, non-profit computer security organization.

    Continue reading
  • Sniff those Ukrainian emails a little more carefully, advises Uncle Sam in wake of Belarusian digital vandalism

    NotPetya started over there, don't forget

    US companies should be on the lookout for security nasties from Ukrainian partners following the digital graffiti and malware attack launched against Ukraine by Belarus, the CISA has warned.

    In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said it "strongly urges leaders and network defenders to be on alert for malicious cyber activity," having issued a checklist [PDF] of recommended actions to take.

    "If working with Ukrainian organizations, take extra care to monitor, inspect, and isolate traffic from those organizations; closely review access controls for that traffic," added CISA, which also advised reviewing backups and disaster recovery drills.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022