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Aug 29, 2002
Blog Post

A Spammer Stole Our Lists

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Approximately three weeks ago, some of our publisher MarketingSherpa's email lists were compromised. We're working with a group of our readers (those who track their email by using a special address unique to their opt-in with us, such as MarketingSherpa@) to determine the extent of the damage.

I didn't mention it publicly because at first we weren't sure it really happened. The techies assured me that there are several reasons why a spammer might get a hold of a particular email (for example by random-name-generation spamming programs), and it might not be that someone stole our lists and was now using them for nefarious purposes. Then I held off still longer because a new owner had taken over our list hosting firm and I wanted to give them a chance to rectify the situation.

They are working on it, putting new security measures in place, etc. (Our tech editor Alexis Gutzman will detail now-required security for lists in an upcoming column in our MarketingSherpa ezine at

However, as time went by the word got out. Two different email discussion groups have mentioned our plight in the past 24 hours.
Our reputation is very much at stake. One poster even suggested we were sending the spam ourselves and trying to cover up by lying about a hacker. (Yeah, like we'd risk the entire company we've spent three years of blood, sweat and no sleep building in order to send you a few porn messages.)

Unfortunately, the list theft problem has not been limited to us.
I know of five other publishers whose lists were also compromised by what appears to be the same hacker/spammer at roughly the same time. I won't publish their names here because I don't have permission to do so, and they shared their info with me as a fellow-publisher rather than as a reporter. However, they are very well known permission-based publishers, and between all of us upwards of a million opt-in subscriber addresses may have been stolen.

I want to thank those publishers for reaching out and sharing their info with me during this crisis. It has made a great deal of difference.
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