Clear Net has joined the rough and tumble of the Internet trade, with one of its first customer accounts being used to "spam" thousands of Ihug customers.
The incident is the latest in a developing feud between the sender of the spam, Andrew Hooper, and Ihug manager Tim Wood, which has now taken in illegal "warez", billing disputes, stolen password files and the "bouncing" of mail off another company's server.
Hooper's mailout on Tuesday sought detailed listings for an Internet directory he plans to establish next year. He has admitted to @IDG that he used an illicitly obtained Ihug customer password file as a database, but said he was "not at liberty to say how I got it. If Ihug had been a little nicer I might have told them where their security problems were."
Clear Net spokesman Ian Parkes told @IDG that his company had received several complaints about the mailout and, after discussion with Wood, had notified Hooper that his action was in breach of Clear Net's terms and conditions and his account would be terminated if he did the same thing again.
Hooper says he had "a great response" from Ihug customers and only one complaint--"the complaints Clear got were all from Ihug staff".
The fact that the mailout from his Clear Net account came though the SMTP server of his former employer, NZNet, was, he says, "because I didn't have the address of the Clear one. It's just the one I had to hand. I would have used the Ihug server if I could have remembered the address."
Hooper is also at a loss as to why the headers on the mail should show that the mail came from firstname.lastname@example.org, suggesting that "maybe it's just the way my email software works".
NZNet spokesman Stephen Andrews says he spoke to Hooper after being contacted by @IDG about the unusual header information "and have told him I'm extremely unimpressed that he should bounce mail off our server like this. But he absolutely does not have root access to our system. He didn't even have a shell account when he worked for us."
Ihug manager Tim Wood says he had been considering blocking all mail access from Clear Net but was "pretty impressed with Clear's action--it's possibly a little bit soft, but then, they're new. On the other hand, we're pretty impressed with ourselves, in that we've avoided the awful prospect of having to put a total block on mail coming from the clear.net domain. With the help of the sendmail manual and some good advice from CICNet, who provide us with a newsfeed, we've devised a way to block mail only from that sender."
Hooper says Ihug's mail blocking is another blow to his business interests, in a course of actions which began when Ihug cancelled a telehousing contract for an ftp server owned by Hooper--because, according to Wood, it had been found to be the source of "gigabytes" of traffic in warez (illegally distributed registered software)--and because Hooper had not paid his bills.
Hooper agrees that "some idiot client of mine was storing warez on the server. Most of it was actually beta software, and some was shareware, but nonetheless I took him offline.
"The bills were in query because we had received such poor transfer rates. I think one of Ihug's Max boxes had a problem which was causing the poor performance. There was also the issue of intereference with my machine. The port was broken and two screws were missing. An Ihug staff member was willing to give an anonymous statement on what happened--we know who it was who tampered with it. This person set up an account on the machine called 'backdoor'. After that, Tim got anti, kicked our server out and killed all my accounts.
"Now they've blocked my mail access to Ihug. Who makes them God? They can't deny me access. Someone's got to turn around and start sticking up for the little man."
Wood acknowledges that an Ihug staff member did log on to Hooper's server, using a password provided by an Ihug employee who was a friend of Hooper's, "because he was concerned at the amount of traffic it was generating--which was a lot more than our own main ftp server. It was actually killing our link speed. My staff member logged on to the machine to see if there were warez on on it--which there were.
"It appears that someone has at some time taken the machine apart--the parallel port had been zapped and there were two screws missing, but we don't even know if that happened while we were housing it. Given that my employee was going to be a trainee policeman before he joined, I'm inclined to believe him."
Wood says that the Ihug staff member who had provided the password to Hooper's machine was on "leave of absence" and was unlikely to return to work at Ihug. He is believed to have been offered a job by Hooper in a new ISP-style business Hooper has advertised in local newsgroups.
While both sides stick to their guns--and Clear and NZNet keep an eye on their logs and wonder how they came to be involved--Hooper has declared in an IRC discussion that he was "not going to play nicey-nicey anymore".