Spam, spam, spam, spam…

October 24, 2007 at 11:13 am | Posted in Internet, Software, Web Apps | Leave a comment

Methinks Monty Python’s famous skit influenced the naming of junk email.

Just read an article on spam today with some interesting comments.
http://askbobrankin.com/are_the_spammers_winning.html

I of course put in my 2 bits worth:

The suggestion to charge micro amounts for usage will not work as most spammers use other peoples computers (spambots) so they would not get the hit. Only the victims would. Again.

I also disagree about AOL being the best ISP for not blocking legitimate email. It’s terrible in my experience, especially getting anything changed. I use a gmail account for public sites and it handles it well, though I do have to check the junk once in awhile.

One issue is that people have been told not to unsubscribe as that was a spammers trick to validate your email address. So instead they mark legitimate newsletters and things as spam. Then spam filters start to block subscriptions, etc. Its fine to unsubscribe to legitimate things.

Blacklists are a terrible idea because many email servers host hundreds of domains. Block the IP address and you block everything. Secondly, the use of spambots means its not even an email server in the first place and the IP address will vary, making it meaningless. I’ve had a terrible time with some ISPs that use black lists for whole IP ranges from other ISPs, blocking thousands of domains. Dumb idea.

Some ISPs have the nasty habit of simply deleting anything they consider spam. Combine that with a blacklist and you lose valid mail. If you don’t have junk mail access with your ISP, consider what they’re doing with it. Do you want someone else throwing away your mail?

They used to bounce messages back to the sender. That way, at least you’d know it didn’t go through. But that effectively doubled the volume of spam traffic  and the faked senders got the bounces instead. I knew my domain was being used by spammers for a few months as a result of that.

In my books, the whole spam problem arose because ISP’s didn’t consider it their job to deal with it until it became an issue for them. They not only passed on viruses, but mail servers were configured by default to relay messages, making them the perfect mask for spammers. Everything was left to their customers to deal with. The ones least equipped to.

The same thing has since happened with computers. Buy a computer and it typically comes with lame security. The XP firewall does not prevent outgoing so easily allows your computer to be a spybot. Default settings allow mail serving with simple  instructions. Front line defenses like AV are typically 30 day trials that expire. People simply don’t get that you HAVE to secure your computer. Its NOT “plug and play” like it should be.

As for viewing spam messages online, then deleting them. It may save you from downloading them, but as soon as you open the email and the images download from the spammers site, they know they got a view and what IP address the file went to. Even text messages sometimes have invisible graphics just for this purpose. If you can avoid it, delete your spam from the subject line. If its not from someone you know…

Finally, if you have an email address on a web site you are inviting spam. Spammers spider the web for email addresses and sell them. Use an image file, script encrypt the email address, but never post it as plain text. Or consider it a throwaway account.

Is spam going to go away soon? Nope. Its become a money making business. Not just by people silly enough to buy drugs from spammers. But they are selling email addresses, selling established botnets of zombie computers, and otherwise finding creative ways to make a living at everyones expense.

As Bob mentions, education is key. But so is nipping the whole thing in the bud by selling pre-secured computers and blocking it at the hub, the ISP’s. All of them.

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