Microsoft Corp is suing a company it claims provides so-called “bulletproof” web hosting to spammers. A company attorney said it is the first time anybody has been sued for allegedly providing spam “support services”.
The company said yesterday it has sued Levon Gillespie of Los Angeles, who runs CheapBulletProof.com, using part of Washington state anti-spam law that outlaws assisting in the transmission of spam.
Microsoft internet safety enforcement attorney Aaron Kornblum said that Gillespie sells hosting services to spammers using servers physically located in China and ostensibly beyond the reach of US law – hence bulletproof.
It’s the first time anyone has gone after a spam support service provider, said Kornblum. First, he sent spam… Also, he assisted in the transmission of spam, and that’s the new territory here.
Gillespie denies sending spam, and says he is not breaking the law by providing hosting services. Personally, I see this as form of harassment by Microsoft, he said. They’re accusing me of things that I do not do.
Microsoft charges that Gillespie breaks Washington’s anti-spam law by assisting in the transmission of spam, and the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which prohibits sending spam using fraudulent means.
Gillespie said that he does not run the email servers that are used to send spam, and as such is not assisting in the transmission of spam. But he admitted that he does run the site CheapBulletProof.com.
CheapBulletProof.com calls itself your source for unbreakable email marketing services. Gillespie said the servers he uses are managed by people at China Telecom, the Chinese state-owned network.
A testimonial on the site reads: Thank you for providing such an invaluable service to spammers everywhere. Everyone who receives a spam email through your servers will be eternally grateful that you ensure they won’t be shut down because of their practices.
The site also says it has a guide for newcomers to bulk email marketing that promises to get them up to speed on how to make their business a success. Kornblum said that Gillespie also runs a spammers advice forum elsewhere.
Gillespie said he does not host illegal content, scams or porn, and that he shuts down clients who send that type of material. All we do is host people who are legitimate bulk emailers, he said. The service has dozens of customers, he said.
TV commercials – that’s a form of spam, he said. What do you do when you see a commercial? You can either watch it or turn it off. Hit the delete key. I don’t know why people are so concerned about it.
Kornblum said that he hopes the lawsuit will reveal who CheapBulletProof’s customers are, and how much money the site was making. Microsoft is trying to change the economics of spam through litigation, he said.
The case is the one hundredth enforcement action Microsoft has been involved in globally, Kornblum said. That number includes suits filed by Microsoft and cases where it has cooperated with law enforcement. The firm filed nine suits in the last month.