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24 Nov 2003

Penis pop-ups and junk mail lead man to "spam rage", Sophos comments

According to the prosecution, Booher threatened to send Anthrax spores
According to the prosecution, Booher threatened to send Anthrax spores

A Silicon Valley computer programmer, enraged by the mountain of spam and pop-up advertising he was encountering regarding enlarging the size of his penis, has been arrested for threatening to torture and kill employees of the company he believed was behind it.

Charles T Booher, 44, was arrested on 20 November in one of the first reported cases of "spam rage". Booher was released on a bond of $75,000 by the US Attorney's office in Northern California, for making threats to an unnamed Canadian company between May and July. As a consequence he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Booher is alleged to have threatened to send the company a "package full of Anthrax spores", and to torture employees with a power drill and ice pick. According to prosecutors, Booher said that unless he was removed from the company's email list, he would hunt down and castrate their employees.

Booher claims his computer was made almost unusable by a bombardment of spam email and pop-up adverts, and had been driven into a rage.

Booher, of Sunnyvale, California, told the Reuters news agency: "Here's what happened: I go to their website and start complaining to them, would you please, please, please stop bothering me. It just sort of escalated... and I sort of lost my cool at that point."

"Being blitzed by spam and a barrage of penis pop-up ads is enough to send anyone a little bit loopy," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "However, the answer is not to become a modern day Dirty Harry, taking the law into your own hands to clean up the streets of the internet from spammers. Instead, you should follow best practice to avoid your email address falling into the hands of spammers and run a consolidated solution to protect your computer against both spam and virus attack."

Booher is believed to work for an encryption software company, and it is not thought that he owns any guns or has access to anthrax spores. He is due back in court on 11 December.

Further details of the case against Booher are available on the US Department of Justice website

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