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Alan Ralsky

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Alan Ralsky Index

Country: United States
State: Michigan
Convicted fraudster, spams using hijacked proxies & virus infected PCs and in the past by hijacking mail servers and mail accounts. One of the first people to host spam-websites in China to evade US law. Served years in prison due to stock-fraud spamming, but soon after being released, seemed to get right back into spamming.

Alan Ralsky SBL Listings History
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MEDIA: FBI Thwarts Spam Tycoon

FBI Thwarts Spam Tycoon (from Red Herring)

Authorities cripple the operations of a man alleged to be the world's biggest spammer.

October 17, 2005

The FBI's probe of a man purported to be the world's biggest spammer demonstrates the seriousness with which law enforcement agencies are cracking down on spam, online security experts said Monday.

The FBI raided both the Detroit home of Alan M. Ralsky and the home of his son-in-law, Scott Bradley, seeking evidence he violated the CAN-SPAM act, which establishes the rules for sending out commercial email.

Authorities seized computers, servers, disks, and financial records as part of the raid, said Philip Kushner, an attorney who represents Mr. Ralsky. "The raid has had the effect of preventing him from doing business," said Mr. Kushner.

No charges have been filed so far against Mr. Ralsky. And Mr. Ralsky's lawyer said his client has tried to remain true to the provisions of the CAN-SPAM law. "Mr. Ralsky has tried to comply with the law and believes he has complied with the law and no one has ever told him that he was violating it," said Mr. Kushner.

FBI Detroit office spokesperson and Special Agent Dawn Clenney declined to comment on any aspect of the raid last September or the subsequent investigation. Details of the raid were disclosed when the search warrant was unsealed last week, and were reported in The Detroit News on Sunday.

Spam Tycoon

The Spamhaus Project ranks Mr. Ralsky at the top of the list of the world's most prolific spammers. His company, Additional Benefits, is seen as one of the biggest spam generators on the Internet and is said to have sent about 100 million messages a day at its peak. Spamhaus Project is a not-for profit organization that tracks spam gangs and maintains a database on the 200 worst spammers worldwide.

Mr. Ralsky both does spam mailers and hosting for people who want to send spam, according to Spamhaus. Describing his modus operandi, the organization said Mr. Ralsky sets up a dummy ISP [Internet service provider] pretending to have "users" that need dial-up access.

"This serves his purposes well, as complaints are directed from the large providers to this dummy ISP and of course thrown away," the organization said in a note to ISPs warning them about Mr. Ralsky. Mr. Ralsky also allegedly hosts his spam server offshore in places like China and India to evade American law enforcement authorities.

In business since 1997, Mr. Ralsky has landed in legal trouble before. In 2001, Verizon Online sued him in a federal court in Virginia for allegedly flooding its subscribers with unsolicited emails.

In its lawsuit, Verizon claimed Mr. Ralsky's company flooded its network with messages advertising everything from gambling to diet pills, to software programs, and mortgage loans.

A year later, the two reached a settlement in which Mr. Ralsky agreed to a permanent injunction barring him and his company from transmitting bulk emails through Verizon Online's network or to its subscribers. He also agreed to make a monetary payment to Verizon, though the amount was never disclosed.

Mr. Ralsky is said to have been living in an 8,000-square-foot home built with the profits from his bulk mailing business. That demonstrates the profits that can be made through spam, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for London-based enterprise security company Sophos.

Crackdown on Spam

Though the raid on Mr. Ralsky has not made a difference to the number of spam messages zipping through the world's networks, the action will send a strong message to spammers, said Mr. Cluley.

"There's a strong story coming out that spammers will be brought to justice and fined or sent to prison," he said. "We think that spammers are beginning to realize that because of these actions it is less effective for them to be sending out spam."

News of the FBI raid against Mr. Ralsky comes on the heels of another action taken by a court in Massachusetts last week against spammers. A judge fined several spammers about $37 million in civil penalties and forced them to shut down their business (see U.S. Tops Spammers List).

The actions are indicative of a growing trend among law enforcement to take the problem of spam very seriously, said Mr. Cluley.

"Over the last year or so more spammers have been taken to court and have had to face some action than in the last five years," he said. "Spam has come up on the radar in front of politicians and we are seeing a greater willingness and more resources among the authorities devoted to tackling spam."

Other IT industry leaders, however, feel legal measures, while welcome, are unlikely to stop the spam juggernaut. Better technology and smarter anti-spam solutions are what will work, they say.

"Can you name a security threat that has actually gone away because of legislation?" said Scott Petry, founder and senior vice president of Postini, a managed security services company which handles 3 billion email messages every week for its clients. "Finding an effective technology solution that can handle spam is the only way to solve the problem."

Mr. Petry estimates that nearly 60 percent of the messages flowing into company networks today are spam.

Related URLs

Link to the full article at the Red Herring is 404

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