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Thread: NEWS - NASCAR Fan Faces Prison Time for E-mails

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2001

    NEWS - NASCAR Fan Faces Prison Time for E-mails

    BOSTON - A NASCAR (news - web sites) fan faces up to a year in prison for flooding Fox Entertainment with more than a half-million e-mails because he was angry the network aired a Boston Red Sox (news) game instead of an auto race.

    Michael Melo of Billerica has agreed to plead guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of damage to a protected computer system, his attorney said Wednesday.

    The action forced the network to shut down part of its Web site.

    Melo designed a program that repeatedly sent the same six e-mails to Fox Entertainment Group Inc. in Los Angeles over a few days in late April and early May 2001. The messages were sent through the company's Boston-area affiliate, according to the federal complaint.

    "He was just very upset that the Red Sox would pre-empt NASCAR, so he decided to send these messages to express his views," said Melo's lawyer, Andrew Good.

    Fox received more than 530,000 e-mails from Melo. Fearing a hacker was attacking its computer system, the company shut down a portion of its Web site, costing Fox $36,000, according to federal prosecutors.

    Also, by taking a portion of its Web site down, Fox Entertainment was unable to communicate via computer with WFXT-TV 25 in suburban Boston for several hours, and left the local affiliate unable to receive viewer e-mail, prosecutors said.

    The federal complaint did not specify the exact content of the e-mails.

    Fox Entertainment spokesman Scott Grogin declined comment.

    The charge carries a maximum of one year in prison. Melo, who works in the computer industry and has no prior criminal record, will ask for probation, Good said.

    "There was no intention to cause any of this damage and the government isn't claiming he did," Good said. "It happened, but it was produced by machines running wild. He's sorry it happened, obviously."

    A message left on an answering machine for a Michael Melo in Billerica was not immediately returned on Wednesday evening.

    No date has been set for his plea hearing and sentencing.

    I found this article interesting. My opinion on the matter is that though this guy was being a pain in the butt, sending him to prison would be going a little over board. My reason for this is based on this one quote: "Fearing a hacker was attacking its computer system, the company shut down a portion of its Web site, costing Fox $36,000". It is safe to assume that Melo did NOT actually cause any damage. If the e-mails were to actually cause the server to go down, whether by lagging it, or causing some kind of overload to the system, it would be another story... But they didn't. Seems to me that the network administrator made a bad decision to take down the server before he knew what was really going on. If he knew what was going on he could have simply blocked the mail server the e-mails were coming from, or if worse came to worst temporary disable the FOX mail system. The loss of $36,000 was caused by the admin freaking out and taking down the portion of their web site, not the thousands of e-mails that came in. I think that Melo wasn't trying to take down their system, he was just trying to be annoying by e-mail bombing them. Maybe some community service or a fine with a misdeamenor charge would be more appropriate.

    It will be kind of scary if he gets sent to jail for this. Imagine if you were pinging a server to see if it was there. You forgot that you ran ping, and in the background ping runs for 3 days. The ping won't cause any damage, and barely slow down the servers, but the network admin freaks out and thinks you are trying to hack in. He takes down the server, which in turn causes an estimated $36,000 loss. Should you be held responsible? Now I know the situation is slightly different as Melo was trying to be a pain in the butt, which is why I suggest the fine or community service. His intention wasn't to hurt the system or cause a loss.

    What is everyone elses thoughts on this?
    An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003

    Thumbs up

    You are absolutely right jared and I agree 100%.

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