There are few people you'd like to see ripped apart by a pack of the Microsoft lawyers but Scott Richter is one on them.
Known as the "spam king", Richter was earning an estimated $2 million a month from sending 38 billion unsolicited e-mails each year, before he allegedly turned legitimate in 2003.
Few people have caused such sustained global irritation since Wet, Wet, Wet's Love is all Around, loitered at number one for 15 weeks in 1992.
Microsoft themselves have irritated most of us at some stage or another with their software too, but are finally using their legal muscle to relieve our in-boxes of their spam burden and Richter of his money.
In an out-of-court settlement last week Richter agreed to pay Microsoft $7 million in compensation. He obviously didn't want to go into the ring with the Microsoft legal counsel, who had him banged to rights.
Microsoft set "spam traps" that netted about 8,000 of his e-mails that contained fraudulent statements, and used them to build a cast iron case proving that Richter's company, OptInRealBig.com, was breaking US anti-spam laws.
Despite having rigorous legislation aimed at undermining spammers, the US remains the world's worst culprit for unsolicited email, which accounts for as much as 72 per cent of all email traffic in America.
It outstrips the likes of China, South Korea and Russia - all notorious havens for illegal internet activity.
But like everything on the Internet, spammers evolve fast. Old style "porn and pill" spammers are learning new techniques for extracting money from the gullible such as the "pump-and-dump" stock scam.
The pump-and-dump racket involves dispersing false information about a company's stock to potential investors via email. Once the stock starts going up the spammers dump their shares and stop advertising the stock, the price often falls, and investors ultimately lose their cash.
Microsoft has filed more than 135 anti-spam lawsuits worldwide in recent years, about 100 of them in the US, and the company claims to have won $838 million in judgments against the underground industry.
Now it is great to see Microsoft lawyers beating up the right guys for once, but it might seem a bit, er, rich that Richter sends us all spam but sends Microsoft a cheque for $7 million!
However, in an open letter posted on the company's website, Microsoft stated that after covering its legal expenses, it will dedicate $5 milion to helping law enforcement agencies address computer-related crimes, and will give $1 million to New York state to expand computer-related skills training. What they did with the $838 million they got from other cases I do not know.
Perhaps they should distribute this to the victims of the crime - you and me - and send us each our split.
But Microsoft should to be applauded for fighting ecrime, even if they have inadvertently found a new revenue stream.
* Chris is managing director of Internet consultancy WebXpress. This and other unedited articles can be found at www. webxpress. com . E-mail:email@example.com