Dealing with Online Abuse

This Slashdot article points to a step-by-step account of what a person did to stop a fraudster from selling his software on a copycat site.

It didn’t seem that interesting to me, until I clicked it and realized that the original owner of the software eventually traced the fraudster to Pakistan and that a local ISP was hosting the site. After some threats and a positive response from the ISP, all signs of the product were removed from the site so the damage done wasn’t much.

One of my current duties is to handle abuse complaints concerning our customers and I have to go through lots of them each day. Almost all of them involve email, either open mail relays which are being used by other spammers to send unsolicited mail, or complaints about local PCs sending out email viruses. The normal procedure is to send a warning to the customer and block their outgoing email if there is no prompt action taken.

The response from the clients is usually frustrating at best. Some remain helpless because they don’t understand what we are talking about or how to solve the issue. Others think they’ve done something by re-installing the software or Windows only to see the problem reappear. One customer went as far as to blame us for blocking their legitimate outgoing mail while allowing the deluge of incoming spam and viruses they were receiving (their POP3 server was hosted elsewhere, thus was not our problem).

But the worst kind are those that claim what they are doing is right when it’s clearly wrong, like what the above fraudster did. One customer was furious that their “bulk email software” wasn’t working and that their business was suffering because of our decision. They went on to say that they don’t send out “spam” and are against “spamming”, but their business involves “legit advertising” to online groups and mailing lists. Their outgoing mail remains blocked.