Roaming wireless porn spammer escapes cell-time

July 31, 2007 Sophos Press Release

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Spammer Nicholas Tombros accessed unsecured wireless internet access points from his car.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus and spam analysis centers, have reminded computer users of securing their wireless internet access following the sentencing of a man who sent pornographic spam while driving around Venice, California.

40-year-old Nicholas Tombros has been sentenced to three years' probation and six months home detention after emailing out thousands of advertisements 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 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.

"It's something of a mystery as to why it has taken three years for Tombros to be sentenced, and compared to other convicted spammers he seems to have got away relatively unscathed. Sentencing needs to happen much faster if a strong message is going to be sent out to other spammers that their criminal activities are unacceptable," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Home users and businesses need to ensure that they have properly secured their wireless internet access or face the risk that hackers will take advantage."

Sophos experts note that Tombros is just the latest in a long line of spammers, phishers, hackers and other cybercriminals to have been recently sentenced for their activities.

Sophos recommends that companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend against the threats of spam, spyware, hackers and viruses.