Facebook awarded over $360 million damages against spammer

Filed Under: Facebook, Law & order, Social networks, Spam

Facebook SecurityFacebook's security team have reason to celebrate as they have claimed another scalp in the ongoing fight against spammers on the social network.

A post on Facebook's Security page announced that this week a federal court has awarded the firm a whopping $360,500,000 in statutory damages and issued a permanent injunction against spammer Philip Porembski.

US district court judge Jeremy Fogel made the judgement against Porembski, who ran a firm called PP Web Services. Porembski was alleged to have obtained the login details of at least 116,000 Facebook users, and sent more than 7.2 million spam messages to victims' online friends.

Some of the spam messages directed users to phishing websites that stole usernames and passwords, while others made money for Porembski every time someone clicked on the links.

Philip Porembski judgement

A computer discovered by the Sacramento County Sherrif's Department, which was thought to belong to Philip Porembski, was found to contain more than 160,000 Facebook login credentials, as well as automated scripts to access Facebook and send messages.

In a brief statement, Facebook said they were "pleased with the win, which is just another result in an ongoing enforcement effort."

Facebook claimed that it received more than 8000 complaints from users as a result of the spam campaign, and more than 4500 users had deactivated their accounts.

As we discussed in Sophos's recent Security Threat Report 2011, spam is certainly a big problem on Facebook, and it's good to see legal action being taken against the people behind it.

Download the Sophos Security Threat Report 2011

Of course, a judgement is one thing. Facebook's chances of ever seeing much of that $360,500,000 is another thing entirely.

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25 Responses to Facebook awarded over $360 million damages against spammer

  1. Rick · 1180 days ago

    Why the hell is Facebook entitled to the damages? It was the users that suffered for it. They are the ones that pay for the electricity and the internet connection, and own the computers that may have been compromised. The users are the ones that have to spend the time having to deal with it.

    • Rusty · 1180 days ago

      Because that's what the law prescribes.

      It's Facebook's terms and conditions that were breached, Facebook's systems that were accessed illegally and used to send the messages, and Facebook's reputation that was damaged as a result.

      The law allows per-message fines/compensation for spam, in this case the court seems to have awarded $50 per message.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that's fair but that's the reasons. To me it just highlights that a lot of internet users are still not savvy enough where it comes to distinguishing between genuine website login pages and fake ones. People only try these spam-to-phish scams because so many people will easily offer up their login details.

    • Tom · 1180 days ago

      Facebook successfully convinced the court that the spam = lost users = lost profits. Probably in part thanks to anyone who answered 'SPAM' when faced with the "Why are you closing your account?" question.

    • Nick · 1180 days ago

      Facebook sued so Facebook gets the damages they claimed. Each individual is also entitled to sue as well, but they didn't bother so they don't get anything. This ain't rocket surgery.

    • MarkZ · 1178 days ago

      Facebook pays for an internet connection & electricity as well & has to hire a team to fight all the spam they receive...the user hasn't paid a dime to facebook, why should they receive damages & not facebook?

      All they had to do was change their password or delete the spam messages, done.

  2. m clark · 1180 days ago

    Unfortunately though this is indeed good news, it's unfortunate that powers given to the government are always abused. With the laws such as these to prevent password stealing, a husband of the woman who cheated on him is on trial because he supposedly "hacked" her password to find out - in their home computer - the emails of his wife and her lover...

  3. Anon · 1180 days ago

    Makes me laugh how they get all these damages when facebook was built from spam at birth, f**k you mark!

  4. david · 1180 days ago

    Its this simple I think we should sue all of the companies that sent us "junk mail" for years before the internet. As the saying goes you do not like the message then just delete, just like we threw away postal "junk Mail" or you a better Idea I would be glad to accept all your junk mail as long as you send me an nickle for every "Junk Mail" you send.
    Problem solved!!!!!

    • Sam · 1179 days ago

      Your analogy is flawed. The recipient of postal junk mail does not incur any expense, nor does the Postal Service (postage is required to be paid.)

      With electronic spam, the recipient may incur cost, especially in the earlier days of the internet with dial up, particularly if you used a service like AOL, CompuServe, Prodigy, etc, which originally charged you for connection time. That's why Fax spam is illegal... the recipient pays for the paper, ink, etc.

      Furthermore, spam is often fraudulent. Can you imagine if opening a piece of Postal junk immediately transmitted your SSN or bank account info to the sender? True, it's the users responsibility to be sure of what they are clicking and typing, but just as there are mail fraud statutes on the books, so too should there be penalties for this type of abuse.

  5. Hey Marky, Mark · 1180 days ago

    Just get Goldman Sachs to give you $360 million. Zuckerberg is selling out to big financial firms.

  6. Rajinder · 1180 days ago

    I agree with David, we need to be alert for such phishing mails or spam. Just delete them. Because if you see the terms and condition of any networking side they clearly mentioned they would not be responsible for any loss.

  7. J. L. Lee · 1180 days ago

    Only morons load up their dossiers for the FBI to peruse. Social networking my ass! STOP feeding the government your personal info!

  8. Thanks for the heads up. Yeah, I agree. It's great to be awarded such a huge amount, but Facebook will be lucky to see much, if any, of it. The dude will just declare bankruptcy, change his name and approach and be back at it within a year, I reckon.

  9. Why does he not get prosecuted for the fact he has personal details that he stole?

    That would be a criminal offence..

    • Diana · 1178 days ago

      he didn't steal anything. if you retards are dumb enough to click on obvious spam links and fall for it.. well, that's your problem, not his.

      • snippy · 1178 days ago

        well no offence your a moron for saying that, you leave your car with the keys in it doesn't give me permission to take it without being charged with theft.....

  10. Craig · 1178 days ago

    LOL. Does that mean facebook's valuation has risen again to $100bn? =p

  11. Deep Needle · 1178 days ago

    WHY is Jeremy Fogel able to decide this case, but he's doing NOTHING about DEATH ROW INMATE MICHAEL MORALES who's been stopping up the works at San Quentin for the last SIX YEARS????

    NOTE TO HONORABLE FOGEL: GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT!!!

  12. mr_z · 1178 days ago

    What about when the facebook mailer spams my email? I wonder if we can sue them for that.

  13. Philip Porembski · 1085 days ago

    People are not the reason that their jailed/imprisoned, the law is the reason that their jailed/imprisoned for breaking the law not the other way around in other words people aren't the reason they're there for breaking the law as the law says because the law is the reason they're there for breaking the law.

  14. Philip Porembski · 1084 days ago

    People are in jail and prison because of the law.

    Regards

  15. Philip Porembski · 1064 days ago

    economic law needs the economy in order for economic crime to be committed because economic crime cannot be committed without the economy.
    economic law is definition for law economic crime is definition for economic crime

  16. Philip Porembski · 1063 days ago

    economic law needs the economy in order for economic crimes to be committed because without the economy economic crimes cannot be committed.
    economic law is definition for civil, criminal law. economic crimes means economic crime or "crime"

  17. philipporembski · 1061 days ago

    there cannot be an economy without economic law which means economic crime is committed because of economic law. economic crime cannot be committed without the economy.
    economic law=civil,criminal. economic crime= crime

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About the author

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, and veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.