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Download Politely Asks Spammers to Stop

Imagine waking each day to find the neighborhood store has posted flyers all over the cars parked legally up and down your block. Pretty annoying, huh?

And before you chuck the imaginary leaflets to the curb, all the while wondering what kind of entrepreneur would go out of his way to aggravate potential customers, maybe you decide it best to organize the neighborhood and go speak with the offending entrepreneur. It doesn't sound illegal, and it isn't.

That's precisely what Eran Reshef, founder and chief executive officer of Blue Security, was thinking when his startup firm began finding end users to create the Do-Not-Intrude registry, whose purpose is to make it too difficult for spammers to keep on spamming.

"If everyone that received a flyer went to the store to complain, then the owner wouldn't even have time to continue the practice," he said. "He'd be too busy handling complaints."

His team today rolled out what is essentially an electronic complaint service designed to keep those shop owners who insist on littering the neighborhood with junk mail too busy to get their goods out the door.

The Blue Frog client software, installed on a PC, allows users to become part of a community that can potentially harness enough muscle to overrun Web sites operated by spammers.

"Most spam-fighting tools that filter or block spam are never going to stop spammers from sending more spam," Reshef said.

Reshef also said he has nothing against spammers. In fact, the idea isn't to cripple them at all, he said; it is simply to pressure them to remove the e-mail address of Blue Frog users from their rosters.

"It is an irrefutable fact that filters are not going to solve the problem," he said. "It is time to adopt a more active approach. We believe we have a right to complain on the spam we receive."

Blue Frog -- named for the tiny poisonous amphibians whose bright colors give notice to predators of what lies inside -- analyzes the messages it receives from the users' accounts, then follows the links inside the spam to the originating site.

Blue Security monitors accounts designed to attract spam and the material sent to see if they violate the federal CAN-SPAM Act. Staff then traces the junk mail to a Web site, and responds with the message:

"I kindly ask that you cease sending me or other registered users spam."

Reshef said some spammers had already downloaded the Blue Security compliance tools, and he estimates that several thousands free downloads have been taken from the site.

Regardless of the success and popularity of the software, he is sensitive to being labeled a renegade who takes matters into his own hands regardless of legal impact.

There are ethical implications of running services that launch what may be considered something akin to a DDoS attack. Last year Lycos Europe came under heavy fire after launching an aggressive campaign targeting spam-related Web sites. The UK-based company took the offensive when it released a "screensaver that spams the spammers."

The screensaver, named "MakeLoveNotSpam," was roundly criticized by industry watchers and ultimately removed from the site. However, 90,000 downloads were recorded before the experience was brought to a halt.

Blue Security claims taking an active approach that deters spammers by interfering with their ability to do business is not the same as launching an attack.

Reshef argues that they are sending unwanted email, so the recipient is entitled to return the favor with a request to stop sending.

"We believe that it is users' right reclaim the Internet," he said.