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ISP cries spam at Fortune 500 firm

Claiming it was bombed with junk email, a Net service provider files a $6 million lawsuit against a Fortune 500 company under Washington's antispam statute.

Claiming it was bombarded with junk email, a Net service provider has filed a $6 million lawsuit against a Fortune 500 company under Washington's antispam statute.

Connect Northwest of Mount Vernon, Washington, on Monday filed the complaint in the Skagit County Superior Court against CTX Mortgage, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dallas-based Centex Corporation, alleging that CTX sent almost 6,000 unsolicited emails to its service from April 8-9 of this year.

The ISP says the emails were sent to mostly nonexistent names at its "cnw.com" domain, causing many of the messages to bounce and clog Connect Northwest's servers. Some of the servers were offline for several hours during the two-day period, and the emails didn't stop even after CTX was contacted, according to Connect Northwest.

"It was a 'dictionary attack,' because they guessed email addresses under our domains," said Alex Free, co-owner of Connect Northwest. "It was an attack on our entire network. I'm glad I have the opportunity to use the law to protect my customers."

CTX could not immediately be reached for comment, but according to the Associated Press, the company issued the following statement yesterday: "What we have learned is that the emails in question represent an isolated incident involving an outside vendor. CTX takes the antispamming laws seriously and immediately stopped the activity pending investigation of this matter."

Under Washington's antispam law, individuals and ISPs can sue unsolicited bulk emailers for forging email address headers, hijacking other email systems, or otherwise "misrepresenting the messages' point of origin."

Individuals can sue for up to $500 each time the statute is violated, and ISPs can sue for $1,000.

Connect Northwest's attorney, Brady Johnson, has filed other lawsuits under the Washington antispam law. He said that CTX violated every aspect of the statute because it allegedly used false headers and a third party's domain name without permission in its emails.

"These companies have a responsibility to know about the laws in the states they do business," Johnson said. "If they can master mortgage regulations, they can learn the laws regarding spam."