Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
April 30, 2003 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Why am I getting all this spam? The Center for Democracy & Technology Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Research Six Month Report.
posted by jacquilynne (22 comments total)
Well, there goes all the research I was doing for my boss to answer this question. *flush*

I'll just send this to him.

Thanks ... I GUESS ... jaquilynne. :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:53 AM on April 30, 2003

From the report:
At least one spammer tried to guess the e-mail addresses used in this study by sending mail to short and common addresses. E-mail addresses composed of short names and initials like bob@ or tse@, or basic combinations like smithj@ or toms@ will probably receive more spam. E-mail addresses need not be incomprehensible, but a user with a common or short name may want to modify or add to it in some way in his or her e-mail address.

For further information, please contact Ari Schwartz at the Center for Democracy & Technology, 202-637-9800,
Does anyone else find this extremely amusing?
posted by kfury at 11:54 AM on April 30, 2003

CDT tested two methods of obstructing address harvesting: Replacing characters in an e-mail address with human-readable equivalents, e.g. "" was written "example at domain dot com;" and Replacing characters in an e-mail address with HTML equivalents. E-mail addresses posted to Web sites using these conventions did not receive any spam.

This is really surprising, since you'd think that spam engines would have started recognizing the "" technique. Perhaps we've outwitted the data mining techniques of the spam industry?
posted by PrinceValium at 11:58 AM on April 30, 2003

That's to you kfury.

The source! Use the source!
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:06 PM on April 30, 2003

Yeah, I just noticed that. Now I feel so stupid, because now his address is in cleartext on the web. Damn me! Matt? Can you obfuscate his address?
posted by kfury at 12:11 PM on April 30, 2003

The report seems to exclude a rather major source of spam: your address appearing in the email headers of friends' mass forwards.

I.e. your friend sends you and ten other people an MPEG of his gerbil dancing the hula. Though you delete the message, one of the others who received it finds it funny enough to pass along to their friends - they forward the entire message, and your email address, appearing in the header of the original message, is therefore forwarded along as well. The original message gets forwarded along a few more times before finally ending up in the hands of a spammer, who strips the emails and sells them off.

This one's particularly nefarious, as it requires nothing on your part aside from having a few overeager emailing friends (and who doesn't?), and can frequently lead to rather significant spam volume.
posted by thomascrown at 12:13 PM on April 30, 2003

Oh, and one more thing:

When posting to usenet, I always use the following message for my e-mail address. It never fails to amuse people, feel free to use it yourself if you have a hotmail account: -- to reach out and touch me deeply, remove yourpants and insert a hotmail.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:14 PM on April 30, 2003

wolfdaddy also exposed ari's addy because mefi converts the character entities to thier character equivalents before sending a comment to the database. view the source of THIS page - ari's addy now is in cleartext twice. :-)
posted by quonsar at 12:27 PM on April 30, 2003

Oh dear. Thanks for catching that quonsar.

In penance, I have a hotmail ready for Ari's pants should anyone spam him due to my own ignorance about the coder cabal and how they think.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:34 PM on April 30, 2003

I've used SpamCop before. It feels good to try to fight back.

Right now I use SpamNet, it zaps most of it.

Of course, the best way to fight SPAM is to eat it.
posted by hipnerd at 12:54 PM on April 30, 2003

Yes, I use SpamCop regularly. I just wish there could be some positive reinforcement: "27 accounts were canceled today thanks in part to our efforts." It would just be nice to know that the pain-in-the-neck of my reporting the stuff (instead of just deleting or filtering it) is actually doing some good.
posted by pmurray63 at 1:00 PM on April 30, 2003

I think what causes the cleartext is the "preview" feature. Whatever you typed initially is reinserted into the TEXTAREA tag during preview and the browser translates the character entities into the actual character equivalents, so when you finally post, what goes in has been converted.

Perhaps you could get around it by not typing in the obfuscated character codes until the last step, when you actually post.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:07 PM on April 30, 2003

Spam is what makes Uh-mer-ka great. Anyone who hates it hates Uh-mer-ka.
posted by drstrangelove at 1:09 PM on April 30, 2003

Of course, the best way to fight SPAM is to eat it.
posted by eyeballkid at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2003

Yesterdays spam report from Postini shows me that our domain had 64,965 messages sent to it, and 56,543 were quarantined as probable spam, for a grand total of 87% spam.

Of the 564MB of attempted messages, 360MB was quarantined as spam.

Last time I posted about this on August 26th, 2002 it was 28,075 attempted e-mails, of which 78.6%(22,077) was spam.

So legitimate mail went up 2000 messages a day, or 25%, and spam went up 34,000 messages a day, or an increase of about 150%.

That mail systems occasionally deliver a real message is almost a footnote to the great oceans of spam pouring over their decks.
posted by dglynn at 1:52 PM on April 30, 2003

eyeballkid "the best way to fight SPAM is to eat it."

I used to like cutting spam up into really thin slices, putting the slices on paper towels & a paper plate, then nuking the slices in a microwave for five minutes. Then you flip them over, onto another paper plate covered in paper towels, and put them in for another five minutes. You do this till the slices of spam have been nuked a total of twenty minutes, and the paper towels stop showing signs of being all that greasy. Voila! SPAM CHIPS.

Then you wait for them to cool down a bit and eat them while watching reruns of X-Files in the dark. Yummy! Major salty! Great with beer!

Of course, then one day my doctor told me I had nothing but cholesterol in my bloodstream and had six months to live. So I don't eat spam chips no more but God were they good when I did.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:04 PM on April 30, 2003

In college we'd eat Spam sauteed in beer. And for dessert, chocolate chip cookies dunked in beer. Pretty much anything goes with beer in college.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:25 PM on April 30, 2003

I know Ari personally and I just pointed this out to him. Check back tomorrow for a report from the man himself? Maybe?
posted by dhacker at 5:29 PM on April 30, 2003

Does anybody have a script for converting e-mail addresses into HTML equivalent codes? Yes, I am simply lazy and do not want to string it together myself.
posted by Hildago at 6:45 PM on April 30, 2003

Wait, I found one.
posted by Hildago at 6:50 PM on April 30, 2003

What spam? I can't find it.
posted by psychomedia at 2:39 AM on May 1, 2003

There's always the Enkoder from Hiveware.
posted by jazon at 1:20 PM on May 1, 2003

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