Hong Kong Court Acquits Spammer, Industry Outraged
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A Hong Kong magistrate ruled yesterday that a systems administrator did not commit an illegal act when he used two other companies' networks to spam thousands of e-mail addresses.
Ng Ming-sum, an employee of Karin Electronics, allegedly used the networks of public relations consultancy Euan Barty Associates (EBA) and Web design firm HKName Design Co. to send unsolicited mail promoting his own Web design and hosting business.
The ruling has provoked mixed responses from the Hong Kong Internet community.
Maren Leizaola, a member of the Anti-Spamming Taskforce of the Hong Kong Internet Service Providers' Association (HKISPA), said that both EBA and HKName have open mails relays making it easier to spam.
The HKISPA Anti-Spamming Taskforce is working to encourage network administrators to adopt more advanced and secure e-mail servers and to use their ISPs to send out e-mail.
Leizaola pointed out that there is no law against spamming in Hong Kong.
"The reason I reported it to the Police is because I felt it was an abuse of our facilities," said Fergus O'Rourke, the EBA Group's Director of Technical Services.
"We are using one of the top e-mail server programs used worldwide," said O'Rourke. He said that EBA did not install the server and that the installers never indicated that it was an open e-mail relay.
"There are thousands of companies with e-mail servers in Hong Kong," added O'Rourke. Some of them have open e-mail relays and don't know it. According to O'Rourke, the server is now spam-safe.
Yat Siu, the founder of the Instant Portal firm OutBlaze, commented, "If I leave my apartment door open, does that make it right for someone to come in and help themselves to a cup of coffee."
Siu indicated that when someone spams off another company's servers, they are using that company's resources including CPU power, hard drives, and bandwidth.
"It's illegal in the US. In Hong Kong, the Internet can not be used in that way," insisted Siu. "If people outside of Hong Kong think that they can use Hong Kong IP addresses to spam, then we have a problem."
"If you make an example, it will scare people from doing it," added Siu.
Leizaola said,"Unauthorized use of someone else's computer is actually against the law in Hong Kong. It's just hard to prove."
Another IT professional pointed out that, according to the press reports, the magistrate "did not have a clue what he was talking about."