Is four years and a $250,000 fine really the best punishment for the self-proclaimed "Godfather of Spam?" Put another way: Do we take the criminal aspects of spam seriously enough?
I don't think so. But, we're also not ready to hunt down spammers or create effective measures to stop spam at the source.
Alan Ralsky, 64, and six others have been convicted in a spam-based stock swindle. Thet gang used e-mail pitches to create a market for essentially worthless stock, which Ralsky and others sold unsuspecting investors for huge profits before the stock price tanked.
Sentencing for the group is expected to conclude today. Ralsky was sentenced on Tuesday to four years in prison, five years' probation, and a $250,000 fine. Cases remain pending against two others.
The gang was been convicted of stealing millions of dollars from investors, but has actually done much more, such as helping create the market for otherwise unnecessary anti-spam software, infecting people's computers with bots, and wasting untold hours of our time.
And the best we can do is a slap on the wrist--time in a cushy federal lock-up?
Forget for just a moment the stock swindle involved here (why would someone send unsolicited stock tips intended to get you rich?) and consider the innocent victims-everyone else. With worldwide spam now amounting to 86 percent of all e-mail traffic, the cost of handing this trash is incredible.
Richi Jennings at Ferris Research estimates that worldwide spam costs $130 billion annually, and that is just the cost to business. In the United States, Jennings estimates spam will cost businesses $42 billion this year. That is $13.63 annually for every U.S. resident--just for businesses handling spam!
Personal costs are not included, nor are the infrastructure the spam uses to get from place to place. Add this all up and spam is a very expensive worldwide scourge, largely perpetrated as a criminal enterprise.
Because of its economic impact, penalties for convicted spammers need to be dramatically increased, matching those given to violent criminals. Three-strikes laws should also apply to spammers. Would anyone really be sad to see Mr. Ralsky, a repeat offender, spend the rest of his life in jail?
It wouldn't bother me to see the "Godfather of Spam" rot in some lousy state prison and we need laws to make it happen.
Contact your legislators and demand tougher anti-spam laws. Point out what spam costs us in lost productivity and actual expense.
While we will not catch even a small minority of cybercriminals, we can make the sentences so harsh for those we do catch that maybe would-be criminals will think better of it.
We also need to work closely with law enforcement in other countries from which spam attacks are directed at U.S. persons. Investing on foreign investigations could, over time, pay big dividends.
Spam is a crime, it supports other crimes, and the criminals should be dealt with harshly.