They call him the "Spam King," but removing him from his throne might not make much of a difference when it comes to the deluge of junk mail hitting your inbox.
The so-called Spam King, 27-year-old Robert Alan Soloway, was arrested on Wednesday after being indicted by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court in Seattle for mail fraud, wire fraud, and fraud in connection with e-mail, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering.
"Spam is a scourge of the Internet, and Robert Soloway is one of its most prolific practitioners," Jeffrey C. Sullivan, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, said in a statement. "Our investigators dubbed him the 'Spam King' because he is responsible for millions of spam e-mails."
According to the indictment, between November 2003 and May 2007, Soloway operated Newport Internet Marketing Corporation, which offered "broadcast e-mail" software and services. These products and services consisted of high-volume commercial e-mail messages that contained false and forged headers, relayed to recipients using botnets.
According to prosecutors, Soloway and his company made several false and fraudulent claims about the products and services. Among them was a claim that the addresses used for the bulk e-mail were opt-in.
The Web site promised a satisfaction guarantee with a full refund to customers who purchased the broadcast e-mail product. However, according to the prosecutors, customers who later complained about the goods and services they had purchased or who asked for refunds were threatened with additional financial charges and referral to a collection agency.
Spam Volumes Maintained
According to IronPort, there was a drop from 81 billion messages the day of the arrest to 70 billion messages right after. That seems like good news on the surface, but digging deeper into the data demonstrates that spam volumes remain unchanged.
"It looks like the decrease was more due to a spike in spam volumes right before the arrest as opposed to a decrease in spam volumes after the arrest," said Craig Sprosts, senior product manager at IronPort. Over the past year, he added, spam volumes have doubled from 36 billion messages per day to about 70 billion per day.
"The individual arrest is not likely to make any noticeable difference to end users out there," Sprosts predicted. "However, I do believe it will strike some fear into the hearts of spammers out there -- at least in the U.S."
That phrase "at least in the U.S." is an important focal point in the spam-prevention picture because spam is an international problem. According to IronPort, seven out of the top 10 spammers are based in Russia or one of the former Eastern bloc countries.
"I would liken the spam problem to global warming. It's great if California enacts tough legislation to improve the environment and that should be applauded," Sprosts said. "But the spam problem isn't going to be solved unless there's a global approach and that's extremely unlikely to happen in the near term."