An Iowan who won a huge victory against junk e-mailers is striking another blow on behalf of computer users fed up with “spam.” Bob Kramer, who runs C-I-S Internet Services in Clinton, says his business started suffering when the volume of unsolicited spam messages grew out of control. He says it’s always been “just a nuisance” to users, but around May or June of 2001 it became crippling for his company. It saturated the bandwidth, choking his routers, switches, mail servers, database servers — no matter how you tried to get the mail through, or block the junk mail, he says he just didn’t have enough horsepower. Kramer says he spent half-a-million dollars on new servers, bigger computers, faster routers, and it still couldn’t handle the junk being sent out by spammers. Junk email and schemes like “phishing” are more than a nuisance, Kramer says — they steal data that can harm you worse than simple credit or identity theft. Kramer says they use stolen money and credit-card names to set up websites with “domain names” registered in the name of that card-holder. In addition those websites often have imbedded code that’ll infect any computer whose user goes there, with a “trojan” or backdoor virus that lets them use the next computer in turn to send out more of their spam. You just become one of 40- or 50-thousand infected computers the spammers use on a daily basis, sending out their ads for products from viagra to child porn, from the computers of anyone…grandmothers, even children. To track down spammers, who can work out of an office anywhere, Kramer says he and his lawyers hit on a strategy. “We just decided to do what they wanted us to do — buy their product,” he says. “We bought the penis enlargment pills…the viagra pills, CDs with mailing lists on them, we’ve requested mortgage-financing quotes for our ‘property’ and we’ve tracked these people down.” The result was unprecedented — a Billion-dollar judgement, although few think Kramer will be able to collect the money. He explains the shady emailers form corporations that they can usually hide behind to avoid prosecution. Kramer says he didn’t go after the junk-mailers to get money, but because he was mad. Kramer says they “stole my life away from me for four and a half years,” forcing him to defend his mail servers, constantly buying new equipment, and dealing with attorneys. He says he intends to impose “the financial, the economic death-penalty on them. When we get done, I’m not sure they’ll be able to afford an Internet connection.” Within recent days Kramer’s struck again, filing a lawsuit against the individuals who own the corporations. He’s tracked them down and says they have plenty of assets and personal wealth, and he intends to get it.
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