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Rustock, the world's largest spam e-mail network, has been disabled by a coordinated action between Microsoft and the FBI, effectively reducing worldwide spam by up to a whopping 39 percent.

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The people who keep track of these things report that global spam traffic dropped from 200 billion messages in August to just 50 billion in December. Unfortunately it appears that the spammers may have decided to pause their activity before a relaunch. Which is just as well because we're running low on Canadian Viagra.

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Encompassing an estimated 78 percent of e-mail, spam remains the bane of many Internet users. The man who has declared himself spam's godfather, Alan Ralsky, has been sentenced to 51 months in prison for his role in an e-mail stock scam.

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The BBC reports on some alarming numbers coming out of Redmond: "More than 97% of all e-mails sent over the net are unwanted, according to a Microsoft security report. The e-mails are dominated by spam adverts for drugs, and general product pitches and often have malicious attachments."

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A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday ordered two Internet spammers to pay a record-breaking $230 million in fines after they sent more than 700,000 unsolicited advertisements to MySpace users. The amount is almost half what Rupert Murdoch spent to buy the social networking site in 2005.

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America Online, the beleaguered Internet giant, has announced plans to dig for gold?seriously. The company recently won a lawsuit against a spammer who then skipped town, so it plans to search his parents? property for gold and platinum bars it believes to be buried there.

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The 20-year-old set out to damage computer networks and send massive amounts of spam. Any computer user who has ever been the victim of a virus, worm or Trojan horse shall be excused the schadenfreude he or she feels at the news of this lengthy prison sentence.

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