Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it's launched 15 lawsuits against spammers in the United States and the UK. The lawsuits allege that the spammers flooded Microsoft's email servers with more than 2 billion spam email messages that employed deceptive and misleading subject lines. Some of the messages contained pornographic images, dating-service solicitations, and other related adult services. Spammers used other messages to harvest email addresses of Microsoft customers, the company says.
"Our customers have told us they're fed up with spam," said Tim Cranton, a senior Microsoft attorney. "Over the past year, the volume of spam has escalated to critical levels and has reached the point where it's threatening the viability of email. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Internet email is spam, and that number is expected to reach 50 percent by the end of the year. Microsoft and other ISPs have recognized that this is an industrywide issue that needs to be addressed and have committed substantial resources to the problem. Enforcement is one of those critical pieces, along with developing new filtering technologies, implementing strong legislation across jurisdictions, and creating industry best practices for sending legitimate commercial email."
Microsoft filed its US lawsuits under Washington state's strong antispam law, which lets ISPs protect consumers by aggressively pursuing spammers. In the UK, Microsoft is pursuing spammers under the 1990 Computer Misuse Act. In both cases, the company is targeting the most egregious spammers, specifically calling out an example in which a spam message purported to be a software update designed to protect the system. In other cases, spammers spoofed Microsoft's MSN Hotmail service to make it seem that the spam was coming from Hotmail.
From a technological standpoint, Microsoft is adding pervasive antispam features to its various messaging products, including Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Outlook, and MSN. The company recently launched an update to MSN 8, and Exchange Server 2003 and Outlook 2003 will ship later this summer.