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Barbara Sue

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Member Since: Jun, 2006

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SPAM
Thursday, September 27, 2007  9:32:00 PM

by Barbara Sue



Internet
Just what is SPAM about....



Before I finally fixed my spam problem -- -- I developed a few vaguely paranoid theories. Briefly, I imagined spammers were spying on my inbox and culling sender names from it that matched those of my friends. In my saner moments, I would wonder why exactly spam evolved to look the way it does. Why do spammers keep sending me pictures of pink, bouncy letters that spell "mortgage," followed by text from a random Web site? And why, oh why, do they send me e-mails containing nothing but the cryptic line, "he said from the doorway, where she"? How can that be good business sense?

I read an article by Daniel Quinlan, who is an antispam architect at Ironport Systems as well as a contributor to open-source antispam system Spam Assassin. I think antispam experts are sort of like geek therapists --he explained why people receive spam from random dictionary words strung together into a name like Elephant Q.

Thermodynamic. It's done to fool any spam filter that refuses to receive e-mail from somebody who has already sent you spam in the past. "They want to create a name that your spam filter has never seen before," Quinlan said. It turns out every weirdness in spam is "probably there for a good reason," he said. In the arms race between spammers and antispammers, spammers try every trick they can to circumvent filtering software.

Often, the spam you get is the result of months or years of this arms race. For example, spammers of yesteryear started sending images instead of text, so that spam filters looking for text like "viagra" would be fooled. Instead, the image would contain the word "viagra," but filters would see only an image and let it through. In response, antispam software began tossing e-mails that contained only an image, since spam containing an image typically has some text with it like "check out my pictures from Hawaii" or whatever. Rarely does a real person send just an image.

Quinlan said spammers figured out their pictures were being chucked, so they started adding a few random words to their mail and got through the filters again. Then antispammers started chucking e-mails with images that also contained random words that didn't make sentences. And that's why, today, you get images with chunks of text taken from random books and Web sites. As long as the text fits into sentences and isn't random words strung together, spam filters have a harder time figuring out if the mail is spam or ham. Spammers also send slightly different images every time, so that spam filters can't identify the image itself as spam. And they fill the images with bouncy, pink letters advertising their crap because character recognition software can't read bouncy letters. So any spam filter that uses character recognition software to look at text in images to find spam will be fooled.

OK, so there is a reason behind the madness. Quinlan explain the spam people get that contains no advertisement for anything, no links nor images, and instead merely quotes some random passage from Dostoyevsky? Quinlan said there's no way to know for sure, but the reigning theory among antispam experts is that it's part of what's called a "directory harvest attack" in which the spammer tries to figure out if there's a real person behind a randomly chosen e-mail address. The spammer sends out millions of innocuous e-mails and may get a slightly different response from the mail server if the mail has reached an actual person. Once the spammer has established that certain addresses are valid, he can send his real spam and be sure that he's reaching an inbox.

All of this sounds perfectly reasonable. Spammers are doing bizarro things to get their messages out. "Sometimes spammers do things that are -- for lack of a better word -- dumb."

I don't really understand much of this,
but maybe someone out there will, so
I am sharing what I read...

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WHAT HAPPENED - 10/2/2008 3:26:00 PM

AM I OLD YET???? - 5/20/2008 2:27:00 PM

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A BRIEF MOMENT IN SPACE - 2/22/2008 12:33:00 PM

NEW DIET RULES FOR CHEATERS... - 1/17/2008 1:46:00 PM

New Dog's Rules For Christmas - 12/23/2007 9:58:00 AM

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL !!!!!! - 11/24/2007 12:27:00 PM

WHY DID THE CHICKEN CROSS THE ROAD? - 11/16/2007 4:15:00 PM

BLIND ITEM..NOT SURE IF TRUE OR NOT - 11/5/2007 5:01:00 PM

ADD A SPECIAL PERSON TO YOUR CHIRSTMAS CARD LIST FOR 2007.... - 11/2/2007 11:13:00 AM

HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR FOOD IS SPOILED - 10/13/2007 4:05:00 PM

BRAIN QUIRKS - 10/4/2007 3:22:00 PM

POSSIBLE UPCOMING MERGERS???? - 9/19/2007 1:21:00 PM

NATURE WAS CALLING.... - 9/12/2007 3:14:00 PM

YOU ARE LIVING IN 2007 WHEN YOU: - 8/14/2007 3:47:00 PM

GEORGE W. AND CONDI TALK BUSINESS.... - 7/31/2007 3:58:00 PM

AM I OLD YET ??? - 6/27/2007 6:11:00 PM

NEW PHOBIA UPDATE OUT... - 6/13/2007 4:51:00 PM

Basketball Playing Grannies - 5/31/2007 4:19:00 PM

THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY MOM.. - 5/11/2007 12:07:00 PM

I AM A SURVIVOR-----SEE BELOW - 4/23/2007 4:01:00 PM

FALSE TEETH WEARERS BEWARE! - 4/15/2007 4:22:00 PM

Enjoy flying Northwest Airlines.... - 4/9/2007 3:31:00 PM

The Man or the Mouse - 3/24/2007 5:47:00 PM

HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE PFL? - 2/24/2007 12:29:00 PM

BLANKETS OF HOPE - 1/23/2007 8:32:00 PM

SOUNDS SILLY--BUT IT ISN'T - 1/12/2007 7:46:00 AM

ARE YOU A RED HAT WOMAN?? - 1/9/2007 6:41:00 PM

Checking out the Personal Ads - 1/7/2007 1:15:00 PM

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