Spam and counter-spam has flown between three Auckland ISPs this week - but the unsolicited mailings appear to have been the work of misguided individuals rather than professionals.
Sinesurf IAP is applying for a restraining order to prevent the "immature idiot" author of a large spam on Internet Group users from ever gaining another account with the company. A telehousing agreement for the machine from which the unsolicited mail was sent to about 2500 Ihug customers has also been cancelled.
All Sinesurf customers have subsequently been the victims of a counter-spam originating from Internet Prolink. Sinesurf managing director Julie Kerr says the message "promises a free holiday in East Tamaki with me paying the bills. I'm concerned as to how the person responsible got the list, but I can see the funny side."
The machine and the Internet Homepages company advertised in the original spam are both operated by former Sinesurf and Ihug employee and current Sinesurf director Karl Stephens, who seems to have suffered most from events. The unsolicited mailout was made without his knowledge by a customer who had an account on Stephens' machine.
Stephens says he has apologised personally to Ihug director Tim Wood and that "I feel very bad about this. Ihug are a good company - and Tim Wood helped us out of a spot not long ago at the Computer Expo. He loaned us a router, without which we would've been stuck. He's been very reasonable about this."
Stephens says the Privacy Act prevents him from naming the customer, but Kerr says the mailout came from the account of Matthew Gillard, a former Sinesurf customer. She says she has repeatedly cancelled accounts associated with Gillard since Sinesurf's launch.
"It seems that every month or two I've had to shut down another Matt Gillard account - and I'm not going to do it any more," says Kerr. "Frankly, we're an Internet Access Provider - and that means if it's a hassle to me, I don't want to know about it. If people want to be silly they can go and do it somewhere else."
Stephens says he is considering his options - including two job offers in as many days - but has already made provision for his Web-hosting customers to keep their pages online.
Ihug director Tim Wood - who was among those spammed - says his company immediately blocked all access to and from Stephens' machine and says he was "quite satisfied" with Kerr prompt action in cancelling the telehousing agreement.
Kerr says she received a large volume of angry mail from the Ihug customers "and some of it was pretty funny. As one person pointed out, the fact that Gillard used the 'To' field and not 'BCC' meant everybody had to scroll down through 800 lines of addresses just to get to the message. Then a few of the people who had been spammed used 'reply to all' when they went to complain so their complaints went to 2500 people."