Spamhaus Fights Court Ruling as Attacks Spike

While the well-known spammer block list site finally agrees to defend itself in court, researchers mark new heights in the volume of unwanted e-mail messages.

Operators of the Spamhaus block list project will appeal an Illinois courts ruling that could shutter the effort if upheld, while other researchers contend that unwanted e-mail campaigns reached an all time high during the third quarter of 2006.

In a document filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Spamhaus lawyers on Oct. 13, the projects directors indicated that they will fight the courts September ruling that awarded $11.7 million in damages to e360insight, an e-mail marketing company that claims it was unfairly labeled as a bulk spammer by the organization.

In the brief, Spamhaus attorneys said that the organization should not be forced to pay e360insight and the companys top executive David Linhardt, who sued the nonprofit project for listing its name to its publicly available database.

Spamhaus also contends that it should not be forced to obey the courts order to shut down its operations if it does not agree to pay out the sum.

Representatives at e360insight did not immediately respond to attempts to seek comment on the Spamhaus appeal.

However, in a statement posted on the site the company said "Spamhaus is a fanatical, vigilante organization that operates with blatant disregard for U.S. law. In addition, e360insight has proven that Spamhaus routinely exposes their customers and volunteers to extreme legal risk by continuing to engage in improper blacklisting, defamation, extortion and blackmail in the name of fighting spam."

Spamhaus, which is based in the United Kingdom, hasnt mounted a defense in the case and didnt show up for the e360insight trial based on its contention that Illinois laws have no jurisdiction over its operations.

The court subsequently granted a default judgment and the damages to Linhardt, who maintains that his e-mail marketing company is not a source of unwanted spam.

The Spamhaus organizations so-called block list is a regularly-updated database identifying the IP addresses of demonstrated spam brokers that is made available at no charge, and used by IT administrators worldwide to help stop unwanted e-mail from entering their companys networks.

Operated by a team of volunteers and researchers, the project also provides hourly data feeds of its list to many of the Internets major ISPs, as well as security software makers including Microsoft.

In a statement on its Web site, Spamhaus continues to defend that its operations do not fall under the jurisdiction of courts outside the UK, and that spammers will likely continue to file suits in their own countries in attempt to stop its ongoing work.

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"Although Spamhaus is based in the United Kingdom, unsurprisingly no spammers risk filing lawsuits in a British court, primarily because the UK legal system is based on loser pays costs and does not allow frivolous lawsuits," the organization said.

"Instead, spammers routinely threaten to file lawsuits in their local nations courts in the hope that a local judge can be bamboozled into accepting the case believing there is jurisdiction and in the hope of winning a default judgment from the local court when Spamhaus does not show up to defend the case."

While maintaining that such default judgments "are without meaning and not enforceable in the UK," Spamhaus appears to have begun taking the Illinois case seriously, hiring the well-known Chicago-based law firm Jenner & Block to carry out its appeal in the suit.

The uncharacteristic move to defend itself comes after Judge Charles Kocoras of the U.S. District Court Illinois circulated a proposed court order earlier in October that asked ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and Spamhuas registrar to revoke the projects Web site.

At the same time that Spamhaus is fighting for its survival, researchers contend that spam campaigns reached an all-time high during the first half of 2006.

According to the latest research released by security applications maker Symantec, spam made up 54 percent of all the worlds e-mail traffic during the first six months of this year, representing a nearly 50 percent increase compared to the second half of 2005.

Symantec said that the most common type of spam detected in the first six months of 2006, representing 26 percent of the messages, offered pitches for health services and products.

Fifty-eight percent of all spam detected worldwide originated in the United States, according to Symantecs Internet Security Threat Report.

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