Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

FTC Comes Down Hard on Spammers

In separate cases, agency slaps complaints on defendants for identity trafficking, bogus product claims

In the past two days, the Federal Trade Commission has filed two cases that could make spammers think twice about the lists they use and the claims they make.

Earlier today, the FTC slapped a complaint against eHealthylife.com, an international group of companies and individuals that has been using email to market Hoodia as a means of weight loss and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as a method of reversing the aging process. In both cases, the FTC said the claims are unsubstantiated and ordered the company to stop making them.

The case could be a landmark, because it attacks spammers not only on their methods of delivery -- eHealthylife is charged with violations of the CAN-SPAM Act -- but also on the validity of their claims. The case is also the FTC's first use of the U.S. SAFEWEB Act, which was passed last year to help U.S. law enforcement agencies work more closely with foreign agencies to stop international cybercrime and online fraud.

According to the FTC complaint, the defendants falsely claimed that their supposed "Hoodia" products cause weight loss as high as 25 pounds in a month. The defendants also claimed that their HGH products would reverse the aging process by reducing cellulite, improving hearing and vision, causing new hair growth, improving emotional stability, and increasing muscle mass. The FTC charges that the defendants made all of these claims without evidence to support them.

In a separate complaint filed yesterday, the FTC and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service nailed Practical Marketing Inc. for selling mailing lists containing consumers’ credit card account numbers and security codes, bank account numbers and routing codes. Practical Marketing pleaded guilty to identity theft and was ordered to pay a $10,000 criminal fine and pay $100,000 to the USPIS Fraud Fund. The FTC is pursuing a separate civil suit against the company.

The complaint was the culmination of a sting operation by the FTC and the USPIS, in which undercover agents posed as Canadian telemarketers seeking email lists for an advance-fee credit card offer. Such credit cards violate FTC rules, bringing another charge against the defendants.

The quick arrest and guilty plea could give pause to identity thieves who collect consumers' personal information and then sell it to spammers and direct marketers. The FTC's suit is unusual in that it also holds the list seller responsible for how its downstream "clients" have used its lists. It requires Practical Marketing to evaluate the products and services its clients are offering and the truthfulness of their marketing claims; investigate any complaints it receives about its clients; terminate services to clients who are breaking the law; and report any terminated clients to the FTC.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Tim Wilson is Editor in Chief and co-founder of Dark Reading.com, UBM Tech's online community for information security professionals. He is responsible for managing the site, assigning and editing content, and writing breaking news stories. Wilson has been recognized as one ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
News
Former CISA Director Chris Krebs Discusses Risk Management & Threat Intel
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  2/23/2021
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
Security + Fraud Protection: Your One-Two Punch Against Cyberattacks
Joshua Goldfarb, Director of Product Management at F5,  2/23/2021
News
Cybercrime Groups More Prolific, Focus on Healthcare in 2020
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  2/22/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Building the SOC of the Future
Building the SOC of the Future
Digital transformation, cloud-focused attacks, and a worldwide pandemic. The past year has changed the way business works and the way security teams operate. There is no going back.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-22861
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
An improper access control vulnerability was identified in GitHub Enterprise Server that allowed authenticated users of the instance to gain write access to unauthorized repositories via specifically crafted pull requests and REST API requests. An attacker would need to be able to fork the targeted ...
CVE-2021-22862
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
An improper access control vulnerability was identified in GitHub Enterprise Server that allowed an authenticated user with the ability to fork a repository to disclose Actions secrets for the parent repository of the fork. This vulnerability existed due to a flaw that allowed the base reference of ...
CVE-2021-22863
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
An improper access control vulnerability was identified in the GitHub Enterprise Server GraphQL API that allowed authenticated users of the instance to modify the maintainer collaboration permission of a pull request without proper authorization. By exploiting this vulnerability, an attacker would b...
CVE-2020-10519
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
A remote code execution vulnerability was identified in GitHub Enterprise Server that could be exploited when building a GitHub Pages site. User-controlled configuration of the underlying parsers used by GitHub Pages were not sufficiently restricted and made it possible to execute commands on the Gi...
CVE-2021-21353
PUBLISHED: 2021-03-03
Pug is an npm package which is a high-performance template engine. In pug before version 3.0.1, if a remote attacker was able to control the `pretty` option of the pug compiler, e.g. if you spread a user provided object such as the query parameters of a request into the pug template inputs, it was p...