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08 Mar 2006

Work-at-home "mom" pleads guilty to pornographic spam crimes

Jennifer Clason told website members that she had a son

US laws dictate that hardcore messages must be clearly labeled as such
US laws dictate that hardcore messages must be clearly labeled as such.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have welcomed news that a woman has pleaded guilty to her involvement in a gang which sent spam containing graphic pornographic images. The 33-year-old also ran a website which supported mums who wished to make money while staying at home looking after their children.

Jennifer Clason, of Raymond, New Hampshire, was charged following more than 600,000 complaints from AOL users that they had received spam messages promoting adult pornographic websites. Clason pleaded guilty at a federal court in Phoenix, Arizona, to two counts under the CAN-SPAM Act, and one count of criminal conspiracy. She has agreed to forfeit money obtained in the commission of the crimes, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each of the offenses.

Brian McWilliams, a commentator on the spam industry, discovered that Jennifer Clason also runs a website, www.mommyjobs.com, which claims to help mothers find a way of giving up office jobs, and receive income while staying at home with their children. In articles published by Clason she says she has "been running a full-time home-based internet business for 7+ years and owns more than 10 different internet sales websites."

"It's sickening to think that a woman claiming to help other mums generate an income while looking after their children was also involved in spam campaigns that promoted adult pornographic websites. The US computer crime authorities are cracking down harder than ever on those responsible for sending spam, and they should be congratulated for bringing another culprit to justice," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Firm action is required worldwide to send a strong message to spammers that their activities are simply unacceptable."

Jennifer Clason told members of the Mommyjobs messageboard that she was on a business trip to Phoenix

Jennifer Clason told members of the MommyJobs messageboard that she had to "tend to some business". This business trip coincided with her court appearance in Phoenix.

According to the plea agreement entered at the court, Clason conspired to transmit spam emails containing graphic pornographic images with Jeffrey A. Kilbride, of Venice, California, and James R. Schaffer, of Paradise Valley, Arizona.

Under US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules spammers must include the warning 'SEXUALLY-EXPLICIT: ' in the subject lines of their pornographic emails or face fines. Spammers who do not clearly label their sexually orientated messages are in violation of federal law.

"Hopefully this case will be a warning to other spammers that the police treat spamming as a serious crime, that costs home users and businesses money around the world," continued Cluley.

Since the media disclosed details of Clason's involvement in the spam ring, she has admitted to members of her MommyJobs website that she does not really have a child, as she had previously claimed.

Jennifer Clason is scheduled to be sentenced on 5 June 2006. More details on the case against Clason are available from the US Department of Justice website. Two other individuals, Andrew Ellifson and Kirk Rogers, have already pleaded guilty to charges connected with the spamming operation.

Sophos recommends that companies protect their email gateways with a consolidated solution to defend against viruses, spyware and spam. Businesses should also secure their desktop and servers with automatically updated protection.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.