An America Online software engineer was charged yesterday with stealing 92 million AOL screen names and selling them to a spammer, USA Today reports. Jason Smathers, 24, of Harpers Ferry, W. Va., sold AOL’s subscriber list to Sean Dunaway, 21, of Las Vegas, alleged a federal criminal complaint. Dunaway allegedly used it to promote his online gambling operation and sold it to other spammers. Both men were arrested yesterday; they face up to five years in prison and fines of $250,000 under an anti-spam law.
The theft is one of the largest of its kind. “If it can happen to AOL, it can happen to anyone,” said Michael Osterman, an independent researcher for tech firms. AOL said it discovered the activity during a spam investigation this spring. “We deeply regret what happened and are quite outraged,” AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said. USA Today called he case “particularly galling for AOL, a vocal opponent of spam, which is clogging e-mail systems and costing businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity.”