Roaming wireless spammer escapes cell-time

Sophos is reminding computer users about the importance of securing their wireless internet access following the sentencing of a man who sent pornographic spam while driving around Venice, California.

According to reports, 40-year-old Nicholas Tombros has been sentenced to three years’ probation and six months’ home detention after emailing out thousands of advertisments for pornographic websites. The spam emails were sent from Tombros’s laptop via unencrypted wireless internet access points he found while driving his car.

Tombros has also been ordered to pay a 10,000 USD fine as part of a plea bargain he reached with prosecutors after being charged in August 2004. At the time, the US Attorney’s office had said that Tombros could face up to three years in prison if convicted. Further details of the plea deal, including why it took three years for Tombros to be sentenced, have not been made public.

“While the US authorities did a fine job in apprehending Tombros, the outcome of this case is hardly likely to send shockwaves through the spamming world. After an inexplicably long waiting period, probation and a stint of home detention simply won’t be enough to convince cybercriminals, many of whom are currently raking in the cash, to throw in the towel,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. “Sentencing needs to be swift and severe if the global spam epidemic is to be curbed, while home users and businesses must ensure that they have properly secured their wireless internet access or face the risk that criminals like Tombros will take advantage.”

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