Bulletproof Hosts Targeted in Lawsuits

Rhett Pardon
SEATTLE, Wash. — Bulletproof hosts need armored vests now.

Microsoft said this week it is ramping up efforts to make it costlier for the spammers to operate by launching a barrage of lawsuits in an attempt to slow down or virtually stop the spread of unsolicited email pitches.

The software giant filed nine new legal actions Thursday in King County Superior Court against the so-called bulletproof hosts, which typically use computers overseas and offer clients rotating Internet Protocol addresses.

When bulletproof spammer's email address are blocked or blacklisted by Internet traffic cops, such as Spamhaus, new ones are assigned that keep the spammer in business.

But entrepreneur Levon Gillespie, who owns CheapBulletProof.com, doesn’t see his actions as unethical or illegal.

In fact, in an email interview with XBiz, Gillespie says his business plan is indeed “bulletproof.”

“I see the future in [bulletproof] hosting as the same with any hosting,” Gillespie told XBiz. “It is now legal so spam as long as you follow guidelines, so why would it be illegal to host responsible bulk email marketers?”

Gillespie’s CheapBulletProof.com and parent company National Online Sales were included in the group of legal actions made public this week.

Microsoft claims Gillespie is among such firms that "actively recruit spammers to use their services by trolling Internet forums frequented by spammers," according to the suit.

Microsoft also is targeting CheapBulletProof.com’s customers with lawsuits.

CheapBulletProof.com advertises that its servers are based in China "to ensure no problems arise from complaints generated by email you send."

Gillespie told XBiz that he caters his services to professional bulk email marketers and that if his company finds out such marketing is done illegally they make efforts to warn or even kick off some clients.

Gillespie, who says his company doesn’t support spammers, said an ad on his website linking to information on "World Wide Spam" shouldn’t be taken seriously, calling it freedom of speech and not an expression of his site's policies.

With the latest round of lawsuits, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said it is involved in more than 100 legal cases against spammers, with more than 70 filed in the United States.

But this week’s actions are the first against bulletproof hosts who base their operations in China.