Fighting Back Against Email Spammers, Internet Hackers, and other Web Thieves

Article Index

1. Introduction

2. Spamming and Hacking Defined

3. Defending Your Computer

4. Antivirus Programs

5. Firewall Programs

6. Avoiding Spammers and Hackers

7. Reporting Internet Crooks to Law Enforcement Agencies

8. Getting Illegal Spammers and Hackers Kicked Off the Internet

9. Finding a Spammer's ISP

10. Finding a Hacker's ISP

11. How to find the ISP for a specific IP address

12. Composing our Email Complaint

13. Article Conclusion














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Page 1


The following article resulted from my experience in dealing with spammers, hackers, and other web thieves; during my tenure as webmaster of for the last 12 years.

When I first started in 1998, the Internet was a safer, kinder place.
We are now using the internet for all types of information and are constantly connected for all parts of our daily lives. There are geographic information technology products in our phones and on our computers. This technology lets us know where we are geographically at all times, and we are giving out personal and financial information to different websites all the time.
There is a lot more for us to be concerned with and to protect on a daily basis.

In the early days of the Internet, there were very few email viruses and most people never heard of the word "firewall" unless they were running a dedicated server. Most Internet users had only one email address and they were not afraid to share it with others.

Now the Internet has become a completely different environment. Not a day goes by that I don't receive 4 or more email viruses, 10-20 email spams (most of which are phishing scams), and hacker attacks on my PC's firewall. What happened??

I'm not a psychologist/sociologist so I can't tell you why the Internet changed. I'm not a lawyer so I can't discuss all the legal aspects of "unsolicited commercial email" (UCE) (which is the more polite way of saying "spam"). I'm not a philosopher or a politician so I can't discuss First Amendment Rights or freedom of speech as it relates to spam. And although I have not gone through any online MBA programs regarding internet security, I am a webmaster that has been online and running a website for 12 years. I can explain how you can fight back against unwanted spam and hackers.

However, before I discuss possible spam and hacking remedies, it is important to understand the nature of spam and hackers.

Spamming and Hacking Defined

Oh what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive!

-- Sir Walter Scott

What is Spam?

Spam in a general sense is any email you don't want to receive. There are many types of email that you may not want e.g. advertisements, newsletters, or questionnaires, however these emails are not what the computer community refers to as spam. What the computer community is most concerned with is illegal email spam.
My definition of illegal email spam is -- attempts to deceive by falsification of seller identity or email address, and use of other trickery (defrauding), in the hope of gaining monetary advantage (stealing) from the email recipient and other parties.

The Federal Trade Commission's definition of spam, "Not all UCE is fraudulent, but fraud operators - often among the first to exploit any technological innovation - have seized on the Internet's capacity to reach literally millions of consumers quickly and at a low cost through UCE. In fact, UCE has become the fraud artist's calling card on the Internet. Much of the spam in the Commission's database contains false information about the sender, misleading subject lines, and extravagant earnings or performance claims about goods and services. These types of claims are the stock in trade of fraudulent schemes." From Prepared Statement Of The Federal Trade Commission On "Unsolicited Commercial email", November 3, 1999.

How does a spammer get your email address?

There are many ways a spammer can obtain your email address.

a. You can disclose it yourself by posting your email address on auctions, bulletin boards, advertising, or email locators.

b. Businesses might sell your email address or other personal information to a spammer (however, legitimate businesses do not do this.)

c. Spammers can use software programs to collect email addresses from web sites or they can use random number generators to send spam out randomly.

What is a hacker?

A hacker is an individual that attempts to take control over someone else's computer by using viruses, worms, and other types of Internet attacks. One of their favorite "tricks", is to use hacked computers to bring down a large web site by overloading the targeted site with millions of transmissions in a "denial of service" (DOS) attack.
While hackers were glorified in the early days of the Internet as people standing up for their rights against big corporations and the Government, hacking is now the hobby of criminals and thieves. Hackers prey on all citizens of the Internet and they are extremely dangerous to individuals, corporations, and governments.

How does a hacker find your computer?

Most hack attempts against personal computers result from viruses and worms running from an infected PC. It is not very difficult for the creator of the hacking program to predetermine the Internet addresses that his program will attack.
There are also amateur hackers, that use software programs, to randomly check for online computers to attack.

What makes Spamming or Hacking Illegal?

The U.S. Congress outlawed certain types of spam with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. The law, which became effective January 1, 2004, covers email whose primary purpose is advertising or promoting a commercial product or service, including content on a Web site. However a "transactional or relationship message" – email that facilitates an agreed-upon transaction or updates a customer in an existing business relationship – may not contain false or misleading routing information, but otherwise is exempt from most provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, is authorized to enforce the CAN-SPAM Act. CAN-SPAM also gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to enforce its criminal sanctions. Other federal and state agencies can enforce the law against organizations under their jurisdiction, and companies that provide Internet access may sue violators, as well.

All 50 states have also passed anti-spam laws that have various penalties for illegal spammers and hackers. If you don't live in a state with a strong anti-spam law, you are still protected from fraudulent schemes, illegal pornography, and other illegal acts by various state and federal laws.
In addition, if a spammer or hacker causes harm to a Government computer they are subject to the penalties of USC Title 18, Part I, Chapter 47, Sec. 1030. - Fraud and related activity in connection with computers.

Now that we have a definition of illegal spam and hacking, let's move on to the practical matter of defending your computer against spammers and hackers.

Next - Defending your computer against spammers and hackers >