Spam Zomby Crack-Down

The FTC is urging ISPs the crack down on “Spam Zombies.”

FTC Urges ISPs to Crack Down on ‘Spam Zombies’ (PC Magazine)

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission plans to issue a statement Tuesday urging ISPs to take a tougher stance on compromised computers known as “spam zombies,” which could include cutting off Internet access for the machines, which experts believe are responsible for sending out huge volumes of unsolicited e-mail messages. The FTC will join with government agencies from around the world to alert ISPs about the spam zombie problem. ISPs should consider a number of options to stem the zombie problem, including better user education, anti-virus protection and even denying Internet access for problem machines, according to two FTC officials.

The statement is just the latest foray by the U.S. government’s trade and consumer protection agency into the spam problem. The statement on spam zombies is similar in structure and intent to “Operation Secure your Server,” a January 2004 initiative by the FTC and agencies in 26 countries, including the Office of Fair Trading in the U.K. and Canada’s Competition Bureau, that urged ISPs to crack down on so-called “open relays” that spammers used to forward e-mail, said Don Blumenthal, coordinator of the FTC’s Internet lab in Washington.

When a regulatory commission “urges” something, it is a signal that “requiring” will soon follow if the action does not happen. I’m all for cracking down on spammers, let alone zombies that spam, but fear that this is simply an area where the lawbreakers’ technology will remain ahead of the enforcers’ indefinitely.

BetaNews (FTC Begins ‘Operation Spam Zombies’) adds,

The Federal Trade Commission, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security and 33 other agencies from over 20 countries have joined the fight against spam – specifically targeting ‘zombie’ machines. Zombie, or hijacked computers are responsible for sending millions of junk e-mails each day.

“Operation Spam Zombies,” will begin by sending letters to over 3,000 ISPs worldwide, instructing them on how to prevent customers’ computers from being compromised by spammers. These methods include: blocking port 25 that is used for outgoing e-mail, applying rate-limiting controls for e-mail relays, identifying potential zombie machines, and providing customers with trojan-removal tools.

See also, FTC Urges ISPs to Crack Down on ‘Spam Zombies’ (eWeek)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Maggie says:

    This calls for a new set of pj’s…pop the corks!

  2. M. Murcek says:

    Some ISPs cracked down more than a year ago. I’ve done a lot of cleanups for people who got kicked off Adelphia broadband after their machines became worm-infected spam zombies.