back to article Wi-Fi spam man avoids can

A US man who sent out pornographic spam while driving around Venice, California, has escaped imprisonment for his misdeeds. Nicholas Tombros, 40, was sentenced to three years' probation and six months' home detention after he was convicted of emailing out thousands of advertisements for pornographic websites. The spam emails …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New punishment...

    How about a small jail sentence, monetary restitution, and a big-screen TV in every room of his residence, constantly blasting out the most inane ads possible for penis pills, penny stocks, porn sites, etc. at high volume 24/7 for months on end while he serves his home detention? The machines should be tamper-proof, and monitoring should be done to make sure that spammers can't wear earplugs or otherwise escape their due...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not good enough

    Spammers do not deserve leniency in any shape or form. The absolute minimum sentence for spamming should be life imprisonment -- with compulsory renewal in the event that the spammer somehow manages to outlive their sentence term.

  3. Marc

    MAC address? Surveillance cameras and license plate numbers?

    I'd like to know how they caught him...

  4. John A Blackley


    While I agree with the sentiments about spammers expressed above, there's a detail of this - and the reported case of the "Michigan man" (Sam Peterson) who was fined for using a cafe's wi-fi while parked outside in his car.

    My concern is this: In both cases, it's unclear whether the wi-fi service was free or not. If - in the case of Peterson - it was free, (he was arrested under a Michigan state law that makes "unauthorized use of a network connection" a felony) then what crime did he commit, exactly?


  5. Paul Smith

    Wrong crime

    As I understand it, these guys were NOT charged with spamming! They were punished for using unsecured Wi-Fi while in a public place. Let me try and put that in perspective; you walk in a straight line along a public footpath. You then get arrested, charged, convicted and punished for trespass because, unbeknownst to you, part of the path was not actaully public.

  6. Dennis

    Re: Concern

    The article indicates that the coffee shop provided a Wi-Fi network for customers to use for free. Peterson was not a customer. Therefore he had no permission to use the network. His actions were beyond accidental use of a free connection, he chose to use the coffee shop's Wi-Fi network.

    Consider supermarkets. They provide free plastic carrier bags for their customers. What would happen if I walked into a supermarket, took hundreds of carrier bags and walked out? Surely this is theft.

  7. John A Blackley


    Thank you. That was the perspective I was looking for.

  8. Roger Williams

    Clueless Cluley

    "Cluley added that the case illustrated the need for businesses and home users alike to properly secure their wireless internet access against exploitation."


    My open Wi-Fi network has almost exactly nothing to do with my chances of being exploited by spammers -- and very little to do with improving their access to the Internet. IMO, spammers are scum, and need to be ruthlessly hunted down and prosecuted. But Cluley's clueless observations are just FUD.

  9. Dillon Pyron

    Open wireless

    I wonder if the owners of the networks he hoped on to have any cause for suing. Of course, this is America, where you can sue anybody for anything. Or nothing.

    As far as open wireless is concerned, remember that it's not a defense anymore. If someone puts kiddie porn on your machine, you can likely be accused, tried and convicted.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    re: Dennis

    In a way, I believe you're correct, but several things: A minor shoplifting offense like 'stealing' plastic bags wouldn't be punished with the severity that the MI man received. I believe the article said that he was a customer of the shop sometimes--so he wouldn't have been punished if he had just purchased a coffee & was sitting in his car using the network? If anything, his 'crime' is more like going into a supermarket that offers free samples, eating till you're full, and not buying anything--not the nicest thing to do, but not a crime either. And the coffeeshop owner didn't have a problem with it--so really, the whole deal was overzealous cops/judges who were technologically illiterate & looking for a scapegoat. The equivalent of a speed trap.


  11. kain preacher

    re: Dennis

    he is the other difference. The shop owner didnt press charges. THats like if i steal your news paper and the state wont accept the fact that you decline to press charges

  12. Adrian Midgley

    "Can I have a bag?"

    If you stick your head into a supermarket giving away carrier bags, and ask if you can have one, _please_, then I'd be surprised if the answer was no.

    If you ask for a hundred, then it seems to be a business transaction.

    If you pick one up that has been dropped outside, and use it, then it would be odd if the state or the shop objected.

    The Michigan case seems more in the range of the first and last, but not completely.

  13. david wilson

    Coffee shop

    >>"The article indicates that the coffee shop provided a Wi-Fi network for customers to use for free. Peterson was not a customer. Therefore he had no permission to use the network. His actions were beyond accidental use of a free connection, he chose to use the coffee shop's Wi-Fi network."

    Unless the usage actually cost the shop anything (which there's a fair chance it didn't), the best analogy would be a shop providing free newspapers to patrons, with someone reading one through the window becoming guilty of a criminal offence even if the shop didn't complain.

  14. Joe Blogs


    What is a customer? If he went in at 9:00am and bought a coffee and sat outside in his car and used the W-Fi, at what point would he be no longer considered a customer? If he bought the coffee on Monday and used the Wi-Fi on Tuesday, would he still be considered a customer?

  15. Cameron

    No surprise

    It's a pat on the wrist. One more strong signal that the US Govt does not consider spamming (misuse of other people's computers without their permission, by the millions) to be a real crime. And that's because the spammers succeeded in positioning themselves as beleagured "internet entrepreneurs" not the criminals that they are. You can blame idiots like Zoe Lofgren and her "expert" advisor at the ACLU for that. When the "business community" (even the "white collar criminals") says jump, the most supposely "liberal" congress critters say how high, sir!

    Suppose I figured out a way to break into a hundred thousand cars and misuse them for a little while, without doing any permanent damage to them. Would that be a crime? Not if I'm a "businessman."

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