A federal judge Wednesday shut down the U.S. operations of an international prescription drug and herbal remedy operation that observers say is responsible for as much as one-third of the world’s spam e-mail, an estimated 1 billion messages in total.
The order came on a case brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has been working on the matter in concert with counterparts in New Zealand.
The FTC claims that the HerbalKing “spam gang” was responsible for many of the unsolicited e-mails offering deals on erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra or natural “male enhancement” products that have landed in U.S. inboxes during the past two years.
Civil defendants Jody Smith of Texas and Lance Atkinson, a New Zealander living in Australia, ran Web sites including “Target Pharmacy” and “Canadian Pharmacy” selling both prescription drugs illegally, and substances billed as “100 % herbal and safe” despite containing synthetic ingredients, the FTC claims.
Spamhaus, a Swiss-based nonprofit that tracks spam internationally and advocates strong regulation, calls the group the "#1 worst spam gang on the Internet for much of 2007 and 2008.”
Despite the scope of the court order, the Chicago Tribune described it as a “small victory” in the war on spam. Spamhaus’ follow-up on operation a day after the order bears that out. The group says its filters are still filling up with HerbalKing spam, ostensibly from automatic botnets or senders in Russia and India “with little care for the law.”
Spamhaus, however, expects legal action against the group in Australia—where spam is illegal—and in India as well.