Two men from Merseyside are being sued by Microsoft for allegedly sending spam e-mails to its customers.
Spam is said to make up half of the world's e-mails
They are among 17 alleged "persistent spammers" across the world who are being taken to court by the computers giant.
It has accused them of gathering e-mail addresses of its customers and sending them unsolicited junk messages.
The messages are alleged to have told recipients they had suffered a virus attack.
Those who responded ended up giving their own e-mail addresses and those of their friends to the alleged spammers, allowing them to be sent more junk e-mails.
Spam is a problem because huge volumes of unwanted messages can clog up e-mail inboxes, drastically slowing corporate computer networks.
What they are doing is using technology and misusing and hacking into our software in order to gain details of our customers
Matt Whittingham, Microsoft
Matt Whittingham, marketing manager for Microsoft's MSN UK division, said the company had announced four initiatives aimed at tackling spam: enforcement, technology, self-regulation and legislation.
He added: "We are taking civil action against 17 persistent spammers, two of which are in the UK."
He said the alleged spammers had been tracked by a specialist Microsoft team, adding: "The two UK cases are quite interesting because what the spammer has done is called 'harvesting'.
"It's basically launching an attack on one of our e-mail servers.
"What the spammer does is send millions and millions of randomly generated e-mails to addresses which, in this case, either ended in @hotmail.com or @msn.com.
"Either the customer or the e-mail server responds when one of those randomly generated e-mail addresses is actually a live address which is attached to one of our customers.
"So in fact what they are doing is using technology and misusing and hacking into our software in order to gain details of our customers."