EarthLink Sues ‘Buffalo Spammer’

Atlanta-based ISP EarthLink is taking the fight to the notorious ‘Buffalo Spammer’ with a $16 million lawsuit to shut down a spam ring operating out of upstate New York.

The lawsuit, which comes up for hearing in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Wednesday, accuses Howard Carmack, dubbed the ‘Buffalo Spammer,’ of sending more than 825 million unsolicited e-mails from illegal EarthLink accounts since early 2002.

It is not the first time the nation’s third-largest access provider has turned to the courts in an effort to curb spam. In July last year, EarthLink won a whopping $25 million judgment against Khan Smith, who was accused to racketeering, computer fraud and privacy abuses.

In the latest action, EarthLink accused Carmack of stealing credit cards and identities to fraudulently buy ISP accounts to send shady and unwanted e-mail. Carmack is also accused of banking fraud and other illegal activities.

With the illegal EarthLink accounts, the spam ring allegedly sent out millions of e-mails that included advertisements for computer virus scripts, get-rich-quick and “work at home” schemes, software for bulk mailing and lists of addresses to be used by other spammers.

The suit also alleges that Carmack assumed the identities of his own family members and innocent third-parties to “disguise his own involvement in these illegal activities.”

The company is asking for preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and a motion for a default judgment. It wants the court to block Carmack from spamming any Internet user, even those outside of EarthLink.

“Spam is the bane of the Internet. By taking legal measures to shut down a spammer like Carmack, EarthLink can help preserve the Internet experience for all consumers, not just EarthLink subscribers,” said Pete Wellborn, EarthLink’s outside legal counsel who is leading the legal fight.

EarthLink, which has pursued legal action alongside the use of its in-house ‘Spaminator’ technology to fight unwanted e-mails, also plans to fight spam with a new spamBlocker product.

It said the ‘Buffalo Spammer’ lawsuit is the latest example using state and federal laws to take legal action against spammers who illegally abuse the Internet. The company has a history of anti-spam success stories, including an injunction in 1997 against Sanford Wallace, then known as “most prolific spammer.”

EarthLink also won a $2 million judgment against Wallace’s company, Cyber Promotions in addition to the $25 million judgment last year against Smith, who was found guilty of generating and sending more than 1 billion unwanted e-mails.

EarthLink said the decision to file suit against Carmack was made after its in-house Abuse Team identified a spike in spam from the Buffalo, New York, area in March 2002. “The Abuse Team determined that the spam originated from a single spammer or spam ring, and in June, EarthLink filed a “John Doe” lawsuit against person or persons unknown,” the suit explained.

By October 2002, EarthLink said it had identified several individuals connected with the Buffalo spam ring. “These individuals provided additional information that implicated Howard Carmack,” the company said, adding that it has since “accumulated a mountain of evidence proving Carmack to be the mastermind of the Buffalo Spammer ring.”

The suit comes in the midst of an industry-wide effort to combat spam. With all in agreement that spam has reached epidemic levels, the major ISPs are joining hands to lead the fight.

Last week, America Online filed a handful of lawsuits against spammers the company says are responsible for 8 million customer complaints.

AOL also announced an initiative with Microsoft and Yahoo to “join forces against spam.” The three rival firms plan to “initiate an open dialogue that will include organizations across this industry to drive technical standards and industry guidelines that can be adopted regardless of platform.”

The three behemoths plan to focus on protecting consumers from receiving spam by stopping companies which “use deceptive techniques in e-mail headers specifying the e-mail sender, by leveraging existing directories of Internet addresses such as the Domain Name System to better identify the location from which e-mail is originating.”