Microsoft Sues Hotmail Spammer…Again

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Microsoft has long been employing technology to try to fight email spam, but increasingly the company is also turning to the legal system to try to shut down the most egregious spammers. Now, Microsoft has filed a lawsuit under the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act against Boris Mizhen and others, accusing the defendants of engaging in an elaborate scheme essentially designed to train Microsoft’s adaptive anti-spam technology to let their particular brand of spam through as legitimate mail.

Microsoft says the defendants opened “millions” of Hotmail accounts, and then hired people to manually identify spam sent to those accounts as legitimate email. Microsoft has developed a system called SmartScreen that attempts to identify and block spam based in part on users flagging spam that makes it through to their user accounts: SmartScreen looks at messages users say are and are not spam, and incorporates that feedback into its filters. By having millions of accounts that were telling SmartScreen that particular spam was actually legitimate email, Microsoft says Mizhen and his cronies were able to influence the SmartScreen system into accepting their spam as legitimate email…for all Hotmail users.

The name Boris Mizhen is familiar to some in the antispam community: in 2003, Microsoft sued Mizhen for spamming Hotmail users. The case was settled out of court, with Mizhen agreeing to pay Microsoft $2 million and stop spamming Hotmail.