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  1. #1
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    Spammers - What a problem..

    I'm wondering what softwares/scripts do you guys all use to try and prevent a user from sending spam from your own servers? As you should all know this can be a problem as major email providers may not only place your emails in the bulk/spam folder, but block them from that also!

    I don't understand who would buy something or even trust something from a spammer!
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  2. #2
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    Well, I know that cPanel has a setting to limit the amount of emails an account can send per hour.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by FR-Alex
    Well, I know that cPanel has a setting to limit the amount of emails an account can send per hour.
    Yes, our default is 250/hr
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  4. #4
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    Yes, cPanel has many functions that you can enable to prevent spam. Do a little reading and you'll be able to prevent any sort of email spam
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  5. #5
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    Make sure to add in a TOS/aup policy where if you catch someone spamming you charge $250 per hour of research and to fix the problem, I caught 2 people who were spamming on my servers on purpose and not just a hack and ended up charging them each 2k after deleting their accounts, they contested the charges but the credit card company backed me up. I never got another spammer trying to use my services again

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bwb
    Make sure to add in a TOS/aup policy where if you catch someone spamming you charge $250 per hour of research and to fix the problem, I caught 2 people who were spamming on my servers on purpose and not just a hack and ended up charging them each 2k after deleting their accounts, they contested the charges but the credit card company backed me up. I never got another spammer trying to use my services again
    You're not saying that because you charged this one guy, that no other spammers tried to use your services again, are you?

    Professional spammers generally don't even sign up for your services. They find script exploits and send their crap out that way or they use stolen credit card/Paypal info. Locking down user accounts, etc. puts a small dent in spamming, but its more of a security and fraud issue than an email or ToS/customer issue.

    The legitimate customers that DO get caught spamming are generally the ones that are too ignorant to realize that the CD they bought with 100,000 "opt in" email addresses is bogus. Fine them, cancel them, tar and feather them...its not accomplishing a thing. Its merely punishing someone who didn't know any better. I'm not saying you look the other way, by any means, I'm just saying that those kinds of people are not the true problem.

    --Tina
    Last edited by Tina J; 11-25-2006 at 12:50 PM.
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  7. #7
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    I know cPanel has tools to help prevent Spam, I was asking what you guys use. I guess everyone else uses the cPanel tools eh?
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuckyAnonymous
    I guess everyone else uses the cPanel tools eh?
    No. You need to secure your servers, watch user accounts for 'exploited script' behavior and do heavy fraud screening on new orders.

    --Tina
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina
    You're not saying that because you charged this one guy, that no other spammers tried to use your services again, are you?

    Professional spammers generally don't even sign up for your services. They find script exploits and send their crap out that way or they use stolen credit card/Paypal info. Locking down user accounts, etc. puts a small dent in spamming, but its more of a security and fraud issue than an email or ToS/customer issue.

    The legitimate customers that DO get caught spamming are generally the ones that are too ignorant to realize that the CD they bought with 100,000 "opt in" email addresses is bogus. Fine them, cancel them, tar and feather them...its not accomplishing a thing. Its merely punishing someone who didn't know any better. I'm not saying you look the other way, by any means, I'm just saying that those kinds of people are not the true problem.

    --Tina
    Well you have to remember this was about 4 years ago when a lot of spammers didn't use the methods they use now, after those two initial problems no I didn't have any other problems but of course I don't think it was because of that although you never know.

    Spammers now use a lot more methods but at the time these guys were actually companies in the UK/China doing it the old fashioned way by signing up for accounts and sending out tons of email. As I said the two people who were spamming were not just normal people whose scripts got hacked/abused, they were actually spammers trying to get away with it.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina
    No. You need to secure your servers, watch user accounts for 'exploited script' behavior and do heavy fraud screening on new orders.

    --Tina
    Yes, yes, yes, I know that.. Thats not what I was asking.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuckyAnonymous
    Yes, yes, yes, I know that.. Thats not what I was asking.
    I thought you were asking how to prevent people from spamming from your servers. Sorry.

    What, exactly, are you asking?

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  12. #12
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    I got PSM to install a cron that logs every email sent from the server, i then check the logs, and when you see a ridiculous number next to an account name, you look into it further, and find a ton of spam. Then i remove them and take legal action :-)
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina
    I thought you were asking how to prevent people from spamming from your servers. Sorry.

    What, exactly, are you asking?

    --Tina
    "I'm wondering what softwares/scripts do you guys all use to try and prevent a user from sending spam from your own servers?"
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  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by bwb
    Make sure to add in a TOS/aup policy where if you catch someone spamming you charge $250 per hour of research and to fix the problem, I caught 2 people who were spamming on my servers on purpose and not just a hack and ended up charging them each 2k after deleting their accounts, they contested the charges but the credit card company backed me up. I never got another spammer trying to use my services again
    How did you manage to do that? I mean, normally, the merchants go with the client (customer) and there isnt much you can do if they do a chargeback. Do you require your usrs to sign a document when they purchase hosting? Otherwise, i cannot see how you won the case. Maybe you could share your experience and what you you had to provide your merchant as proof.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuckyAnonymous
    "I'm wondering what softwares/scripts do you guys all use to try and prevent a user from sending spam from your own servers?"
    Software can't really accomplish that effectively.

    --Tina
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina
    I'm just saying that those kinds of people are not the true problem.
    Hmm. The true problem. That can be an interesting investigation.

    One practical way to define "who is the true problem" in terms of spam is to try to identify the group we could apply our efforts towards, to the greatest effect.

    What target would yield the biggest bang for the buck for each unit of time, money, energy invested?

    Imho, that target of greatest opportunity would be us, the web hosting industry.

    This industry has such enormous talents and assets, it's amazing really.

    But we are burdened with a defeatist fascination with defense, and a real lack of will and imagination on offense.

    The spammers can find us and attack us, but we just aren't smart enough to follow the money trail and return the favor.

    I know, the nature of networks has a lot to do with it, granted.

    But we use that as a reason to fail and be victims, rather than as a challenge to be greeted and overcome.

  17. #17
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    The problem is that these people don't have regular physical addresses and don't hire regular hosting companies to send their spam from. They operate in the shadows and move around and know how to cover their tracks. Its kind of like the Nigerian money transfer scams. They're well organized and next to impossible to shut down.

    If you have some ideas on how to fix, or even put a dent in, this problem...you'd be THE MAN.

    --Tina
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  18. #18
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    I like Squirreldog's preemtive imagination on dealing with Spammers. I'd like to hear the details of your thoughts or plans, if you don't mind sharing them?
    Patrick K. HendersonSales Manager
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  19. #19
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    Ok guys, thanks for helping me think it through.

    Clearly, I don't have THE answer. I am just using logic to observe that what we've been doing for 12 years does not work, so some kind of paradigm shift seems essential.

    I guess my main point would be that if the same energy that is currently applied to explaining why we can't make this paradigm shift was instead invested in constructive imaginative thought, we might have a shot.

    As one possibility, I picture an industry trade group, supported by dues from web hosts, bandwidth providers etc.

    This trade group hires professional detective agencies, lawyers, public relations firms, etc.

    We find'em, we sue or jail them where possible, and at the least, we make them very famous.

    The money trail seems a logical place to start, but I would entrust this to the professionals who spend their entire careers tracking people down.

    I have no illusion that we will find them all. But finding 5%, and delivering a life changing blow, will ripple throughout their community, just as their actions ripple through ours.

    And success stories printed widely in our community, and the public could change the psychological and political environment.

    People love to win, and they love to have someone to hate, it must be added. Much of this currently buried energy could be liberated with the right victories.

    We are very smart, and very rich. We shouldn't be playing the role of victims here. At the least, we should be TRYING to take the fight to them.

    Over to you. Both you guys, and many others here, will have lots of experience beyond mine. Care to share?

  20. #20
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    follow the money, and you'll find your spammers.
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  21. #21
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    That makes sense to me too.

    The challenge for the web hosting industry could perhaps be defined as, how do we raise the money needed to hire the experts who can follow the money?

    Part of the paradigm shift can be to shift focus from thinking of this as primarily a technical problem, to thinking of it as a political problem. Not political problem so much in terms of laws etc, but in the broader sense.

    How do communities organize to defend themselves against threats from shadowy groups with impressive powers?

    It's the theme of the 21st century, online and offline, and we could play an important leadership role in how we deal with our online terrorists.

    The one thing it seems we've learned in the offline version of this game is that you can't stay on defense, too many targets. You have to go on offense.

  22. #22
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    ... encourage ISPs to setup more honeypots to lure these guys in and catch'm!
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  23. #23
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    If you are using Exim for your MTA there are a lot of tricks you can do to stop spam. If you aren't using Exim I don't know how you live without it.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by AH-Tina
    The legitimate customers that DO get caught spamming are generally the ones that are too ignorant to realize that the CD they bought with 100,000 "opt in" email addresses is bogus. Fine them, cancel them, tar and feather them...its not accomplishing a thing. Its merely punishing someone who didn't know any better. I'm not saying you look the other way, by any means, I'm just saying that those kinds of people are not the true problem.
    --Tina
    While these folks are not a huge part of the problem, they are still part of the problem. When we have actual customers exploiting the services we offer to send out UCE, we will warn them, educate them, and if it happens again they get fined. Many people really don't seem to care what you tell them until you hit them in the wallet.

    In the end, I think the only way to fix spam is to get rid of SMTP, which was designed over 24 years ago, and move to a protocol that's designed from the ground up with an anti-spam focus. All of the "fixes" (SPF, RBLs, Tarpitting, Greylistng) out there today are merely band aides for that are trying to heal a gaping wound.
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Suds
    In the end, I think the only way to fix spam is to get rid of SMTP, which was designed over 24 years ago, and move to a protocol that's designed from the ground up with an anti-spam focus.
    Yes, sounds right to me. Great point. The culture of the Net has changed radically, and the techology hasn't kept up.

    When SMTP was deployed the Net was a relative handful of educated responsible people, almost all of whom were connected to the Net via their employer. SMTP was fine for this group and situation.

    This educated responsible group invented the Net they wished to live in, not the one they would actually have to live in. Best of intentions, not entirely realistic.

  26. #26
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    Getting rid of SMTP will not fix the spam problem. There are many other ways to send email from a server other than using SMTP.
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Internet54
    Getting rid of SMTP will not fix the spam problem. There are many other ways to send email from a server other than using SMTP.
    At some point, currently all email must be submitted to a server running SMTP in order for it to be delivered to a remote system.
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  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Suds
    At some point, currently all email must be submitted to a server running SMTP in order for it to be delivered to a remote system.
    Sorry if I'm completely wrong with this, cause I'm not really sure how it works. But if you send email using a method in php, would you still need an smtp server running?

    Except of course if you mean that you always need one running some where in this case on the receiving end you would need an smtp server?
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  29. #29
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    Hi!
    Of course! Sendmail does not need a smtp server...nor does Perl, php or python. You can even write a shell script that sends email...although it uses mail or sendmail, I believe. All Unix/Linux systems have "mail"..and let's not forget the infamous Pine exploit not too far back in the past.

    No...no SMTP server required at all.

    Oh..and here's another bit of advice for those who thing still hosting small accounts under:

    http://www.yourprimarydomain.com/~whatever

    is still a good idea. Several hosts have had *their* domain suspended from people sending spam from those accounts. Just something you need to think about.

    Yes..much email is automatically put in a "Spam" folder for different reasons.

    One may be misdeeds from the past...ala dediwebhost's past as (un)managed.com. Even though I have a server there...I would never offer mail services from that server for that very reason.

    Sometimes it's something simple..like no reverse dns set for a certain IP.


    Bryon
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  30. #30
    Im lucky i have not had this problem yet im not looking forward to it though when and if it happens
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  31. #31
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    I use:
    http://www.webhostgear.com/338.html

    Helps prevent spam

  32. #32
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    I came across this recent NY Times article;
    http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstra...AB0994DE404482

    Here's a summary:

    Worldwide volumes of spam have doubled since last year, causing new plague that torments computer users and companies; junk mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 e-mail messages; much of flood consists of nettlesome new image spam, in which words of ads are part of pictures, often fooling detection programs that look for telltale phrases; antispam industry struggles to keep up with surge, adding computer power and developing new techniques to avoid losing battle; corporate specialists explain; Web hosting company Lanset America for time blocked all messages from several countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa where much of spam is originating; most active spammers now operate beyond reach of US law enforcement, often in Russia, Eastern Europe and Asia
    I find our relationship to spam to be a truly fascinating social phenomena.

    Can we forget about the technology side of the struggle for a moment (just a moment or two!), and examine the sociology of spam?

    1) We all acknowledge that we have surrendered 90% of all email traffic to spammers, and that their activities are causing billions of dollars of damage world wide.

    2) The legitimate Net community out numbers the spammer/hacker/vermin community a million to one.

    3) We have overwhelming advantages in almost every regard. Money, talent, law, public support, the resources of governments and large multinational corporations, etc etc, all on our side.

    4) Much of the Net is led by self respecting, highly intelligent, well educated, healthy and wealthy young men, few of whom would likely tolerate a personal insult for long.

    Inspite of all of the above.....

    We, as a community, seem entirely incapable of taking the battle to the spammer/hacker/vermin community in any sustained, coherent, professional, well publicized manner.

    And all that is required to take the battle to them is money. The legit net industry can easily afford to hire entire buildings full of well trained experienced professionals whose only job is tracking down network abusers.

    Honestly, is anybody else here sick to death of always playing defense and being the victim?

    Are any of you guys fed up with all the negative defeatist talk about how invulnerable the genius spammers are, blah, blah, blah etc?

    The spammers own 90% of all email traffic now. How many more percent do they have to take before we awaken to our self respect and reply?

  33. #33
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    I was thinking about this today actually. I wished they all would take one holiday at least (one the same day) every year.

    (imagine - we would probably think something was wrong with the internet, no email, forums not getting posted in, etc) LOL

  34. #34
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    Actually, you'll notice an increase in spam on the weekends and holidays. This is because they hope they won't be shut down until Monday or after everyone returns to work.

    --Tina
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    Hey Corey, thanks for your fun holiday wish.

    Regrettably, nobody can grant you your wish, but here's a take off on your idea, and a wish we perhaps could grant.

    Suppose _we_ take a day off each year?

    That is, all the ISPs and hosts turn off all the spam filters, and let the spam hit the end users. Just for a day.

    A day of public education like this might be invaluble in building a public consensus for raising the funds needed to go on the offensive.

    Real world example:

    Before 9/11 few people wanted to go on the offensive against the terrorists.

    After 9/11 almost everybody wants to go on the offensive against the terrorists.
    Last edited by Nature-Talk; 12-24-2006 at 09:05 PM.

  36. #36
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    Squirl,

    Not only are we slaves to SPAM, but we're a slave to our e-mail and Internet communication. How many of us must check our personal e-mail several times during the day to prevent our inbox from flooding with legitimate and SPAM e-mail. In my case, network monitors SPAM my business e-mail, and on the personal side I have notifications from sites like ebay, myspace, and other forums to alert me to new messages. Let's not even discuss the cell phone addictions. We all have to ask ourselves what would we do w/o these things, and how did we manage to get by w/o them.
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  37. #37
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    That might work squirreldog - usually people have to see it / live it before it affects them. Or hope that they forget to set the automated emails before defcon

  38. #38
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    Hey LWP,

    Quote Originally Posted by LiquidWebPatrick
    We all have to ask ourselves what
    would we do w/o these things, and how did we manage to get
    by w/o them.
    Yes, great point. You're right, it's quite interesting how
    compelling all these media technologies are.

    I lived 30 years before cable TV, and 45 years before the
    Net, and never knew I was deprived of anything. But now,
    if some foreign power were to block cable TV or the Net, the
    population would become hysterical, and the missiles would
    start flying.

    It's especially interesting to observe how much time we
    invest in understanding the hardware servers, and how little
    interest we usually have in the bio-server that lies at the
    center of the whole show. We see "the network" as being
    only the mechanical devices, and tend to ignore the most
    important server on the network in the process.

    The bio-servers and the mechanical servers are merging in to
    something larger than them both. I think we should ask
    ourselves what our relationship to this emerging global mind
    is.

    Is our digital home important to us, or not?

    How important is your real world house?

    If some of your neighbors were breaking in to your house
    everyday while you were at work, what would you do?

    Would you buy better locks, and hope for the best?

    Ah, now that you have better locks, they're breaking the
    windows to get in.

    Ah, now that you have iron bars on the windows, they are
    cutting a hole in the wall.

    Ah, now that you have guard dogs, they are shooting the dogs.

    At what point do we realize defense is not the answer, and
    start trying to figure out which neighbors are causing the
    problem?

  39. #39
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    The problem with this information age is that it's too easy to break in and steal things that don't belong to you. We pirate music and videos, steal unsecure WiFi from our neighbors, and some even go as far as stealing CC#s and identities all over the Internet. There are some that are on the offensive. Don't you remember DateLine and the Perverted Justice People? They're taking the offensive, but many others are more discrete. The task at hand is insurmountable and to some extent we are all guilty of some online crime that we'd never do in the real world. Who hasn't downloaded a song for free?
    Patrick K. HendersonSales Manager
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  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by LiquidWebPatrick
    The problem with this information age is that it's too easy to break in and steal things that don't belong to you.
    That's the challenge, yes. It's a new environment, and thus we face new challenges.

    In the 1930 and 40s' the challenge was global fascism. And some people declared the challenge insurmountable, and advised acceptance of defeat.

    But the fascism challenge of that era wasn't insurmountable, just very challenging. Same thing today, as in every time period in the history of the human race.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiquidWebPatrick
    Don't you remember DateLine and the Perverted Justice People? They're taking the offensive,
    That's a great example, thanks! Yes, they're on the offensive, God bless'em. They didn't say "it's impossible", they put their minds to work, and turned the new tools and old tools against the scum.

    And now every child abuser on the net is wondering "is this person I'm chatting with Dateline?" Isn't that great?

    This is exactly what we need to mobilize ourselves, examples of success.

    Quote Originally Posted by LiquidWebPatrick
    The task at hand is insurmountable
    Help me out here. Who was it that said, "Whether we think we can, or think we can't, either way we're right."

    Quote Originally Posted by LiquidWebPatrick
    and to some extent we are all guilty of some online crime that we'd never do in the real world. Who hasn't downloaded a song for free?
    Ouch. Gotta admit, you're right about that. I do agree there is a culture of respect that needs to be nutured and developed, and none of us, this writer included, are above the lessons. That's a good point.

    Still, there is a meaningful difference between the casual shoplifting of everyday users, and well financed and organized international criminal gangs.

    The everyday users aren't going to take over the network, but if we keep letting the gangs run free, they might. Again, not a futuristic theory, they own 90% of all email traffic as we speak.

    Great discussion LWP. You're raising lots of interesting points. Keep'em coming please.

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