White Hats Lose in Cyberwar Flare Up

A cyberwar between Blue Security, a provider of e-mail defense solutions based in Israel, and high-profile Russian spammer PharmaMaster ended last week when the former surrendered amid escalating threats and attacks. PharmaMaster launched the battle in response to Blue Security’s unique security services, which fought fire with fire.


Blue Security backed down from the fight when it became apparent that its scrap with the spammer could threaten millions of Web users, many sites and even the Internet itself. As a result, the company has canceled its services and closed down shop.


The flagship product of Blue Security was Blue Frog, software that counterattacked spam by flooding the senders’ Inboxes with opt-out e-mails. This product, which had nearly half a million users prior to last week’s announcement, was somewhat controversial in that it adopted similar tactics to the ones used by the very people they were protecting their customers from. Thus, Blue Security came under fire from many of its fellow white hats.


Yet many of its users swore by Blue Security, claiming that they offered one of the few anti-spam solutions out there that actually worked. Testimonials from customers—whose reactions to last week’s announcement ranged from resigned disappointment to extreme resentment—indicated that installation of the company’s Blue Frog software cut their spam e-mails from a few hundred per week down to numbers in the single digits.


Initially, most spammers just left the customers on Blue Security’s Do Not Intrude list alone. However, PharmaMaster—who very possibly was representing a conglomeration of spammers—sent out a blitz of junk e-mails that were threatening in tone to both Blue Security users and non-users alike last month. Then PharmaMaster pulled off a series of denial-of-service attacks against Blue Security and affiliated companies’ Web sites, which disrupted some major Web hosting businesses’ operations. This was what prompted Blue Security to cry uncle last week. It just goes to show you that no good deed goes unpunished.

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