Spam fighters hit criminals' weak spot

Spam fighters are focusing on taking down the Web sites of known spammers.

Computer Cops believes many of the spamming groups are responsible for a lot of other online crime. "We're trying to take a look at all of the Internet crime out there and do criminal profiles," said Paul Laudanski, the company's owner and the leader of the PIRT project. Crime-fighting groups that focus only on spam or phishing don't get the full picture, he added. "If one organization is only focusing on one thing, they're missing a lot of criminal activity."

Scott Conti recently signed on as one of KnujOn's 1300 registered contributors because he liked the project's Web-centric approach. "There aren't many people going back to the source," said Conti, the director of information technology at Greenfield Community College, in Greenfield, Massachusetts. "That's what I thought was interesting about it. They are actually trying to take a proactive approach by going after the sites and going after the ISPs that are hosting them."

Greenfield College is now contributing between 50 and 100 spam samples per week to KnujOn, and in return it gets back information it can use to blacklist spam sites.

The college needs all the help it can get. About 96 percent of the 90,000 e-mail messages processed each day by Greenfield's IT department are spam, Conti said.

It's one of his biggest headaches, Conti said. "We probably get more vocal complaining about spam than just about any other problem we're likely to have."

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