March 21, 1997 1:00 PM PST

Hacker-spammer war intensifies

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Hackers took another jab at Cyber Promotions early this morning when they broke into the junk emailer's Web site for the second time in two days.

But Cyber Promotions president Sanford Wallace--or, as he prefers, "Spamford"--punched back, saying that his company has identified the hacker and has "turned the matter over to the authorities," he wrote on the Web site.

"We have a log of every single packet that goes to and from our system," Wallace added in an interview today. "We have positively identified the source, and we know exactly what has to get done."

He stopped short of saying which authorities he contacted, citing confidentiality agreements.

According to a source identified as mediaeater, the hacked page went up at 1:05 a.m. ET and was down by 9 a.m. ET.

Wallace confirmed that hackers--or most probably a single hacker--had broken into the site for the second day in a row. Yesterday, a hacker (probably the same one) broke into the site, stole a password file, and posted it to Usenet newsgroups for all to see.

And they did.

Wallace said the passwords were useless because they're encoded. Several hackers--known on the Net as "crackers" because they crack systems and programs--said, however, that they could easily extract passwords using a program called Crack.

But Wallace added today that Cyber Promotions has switched servers and is changing all passwords, just in case.

"It's very hard to get your hands on that password file," he said. "Whoever did that did a very good hacking job."

In typical Wallace fashion, he said he appreciated the hacking because "it's teaching us how to better protect our customers in the future."

While some may view the hacker-spammer battle as a simple game of cat and mouse, others look at it as blood sport.

Reactions to spam vary from people who don't mind it at all to those who say it is degrading the quality of the Internet. For instance, at various times, ISPs have been effectively shut down by spammers who use the services as a return path for their junk mail.

But now Wallace says he has a solution to the problem: a new network designed especially for spammers. That network, however, has only served to intensify the fight, angering antispammers even more.

But Wallace said he finds it hypocritical that people who object to spam are sometimes the same ones who are admittedly using illegal methods as a means of revenge.

But many other spam fighters--including the large online companies--are going after Wallace and others in court and trying to get legislative bodies to pass laws that would make spam illegal.

And that, says Wallace, will be the only way to make him stop.

 

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