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October 12, 2003

SPAM....Much spam talk today....

Apparently there is a widespread spam attack on blog comment threads. The spammers use robots to leave links to some unusually nasty porn sites on dozens of comment threads at a time, and sign the comments "Lolita" or "Preteen."

According to TalkLeft, which, like me, is hosted by Hosting Matters, they are on top of the situation and have banned the IP addresses that have been sending the spam. In addition, I've also personally banned the IP addresses on my site. I mention this mostly because it's possible that a legitimate user could get banned if their IP address happens to fall into the same range as the spammer. If this happens to you, I apologize, but I'm afraid this is a ban that's going to have to stay in place.

And as long as we're on the subject of spam, Mark Kleiman suggests today that spammers who use return addresses like "sysadmin@microsoft.com" or somesuch, and therefore force you to look at the message in case it's something real, are guilty of defrauding us of our time. Perhaps federal law ought to be changed to make that a crime?

Fine by me, and to help him make his point I'm going to quibble with something else he said:

Spam is annoying. But a spam filter will cut down on the volume substantially, and deleting what gets through the filter is usually not an outrageous burden....Maybe there needs to be a legally enforceable do-not-spam list, or some non-legal approach managed by the consumers' ISPs (e.g., a tiny per-message charge) to discourage bulk spamming, but it's a reasonably manageable problem most of the time.

Au contraire. My poor mother, who wants nothing more from her computer than to send and receive an occasional email to her friends, has gotten to the point where her email account is nearly useless. She's on a dial-up link and she gets about 200 spams a day, so if she misses a couple of days and then checks for email, she has to wait for 600 messages to download and then sort through them to find the one or two genuine ones. (I was there one day when she came home from vacation and it took over an hour to get rid of a week's worth of spam.) At some point this makes it impossible in practice to use email, and since she's charged for connect time it also costs her real money.

So while spam might be tolerable for those of us on broadband connections hosted by ISPs who have at least some minimal spam filters in place, for many others it makes their email practically unusable. My mother's ISP, Concentric, confirms that spam is a real problem (thanks, guys!) and says that they're "working on a plan." Great.

So in the end, the only solution is a new email address, which mom will be getting next week when Time Warner installs a shiny new cable modem. That should take care of the problem.

For a while.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 12, 2003 02:35 PM | TrackBack


Comments

Just establish two separate email addresses. Use one for public stuff like online purchasing (or blog comments) and one only for private correspondence. Works fine for me.

Also, yahoo and msn both have fairly decent spam blockers built in.

Also, Microsoft Outlook is evil and stupid. If you want a (functionally and philosophically) better program, try Mozilla Thunderbird. It's got a trainable junk filter that works like a charm after about a week of use.

I'm with Kleiman--there are a few simple things you can do to drastically reduce spam. I'm sympathetic to computer newbies like your mom, though.

Posted by: Realish at October 12, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I have one address that is only used for personal emailing, and I get no spam. My Yahoo address, on the other hand........

Posted by: Jeff at October 12, 2003 02:44 PM | PERMALINK

For personal email, use Mozilla. It uses Bayesian spam filtering, which basically means that you train it to know what's spam and what's not. After a few days or weeks (depending on how much mail you get) it works perfectly. And when it doesn't, you click the "this is spam" button, and it learns even more, to work even more perfectly. :-)

(And because I've started using it, I'm now not afraid to post my email address places like here :-))

Posted by: dolphinling at October 12, 2003 02:48 PM | PERMALINK

I had concentric as my ISP and was also receiving close to 100 pieces of spam a day. I figured it was because I had been there so long. Then I switched to DSL Extreme. For most of the past year, I did not get more than 1 piece of spam a week. But i was real careful not to register my new e-mail address any where...until last month when I made numerous internet purchases. Now I am getting several pieces of spam a week.

Your mom should get a new ISP and then only use a Yahoo address or some other such web-based address for any purchases or registering she does online. She should set up the web-based email address before she gets her new ISP so she does not have to use her new email address to get it.

Good Luck!

Posted by: No Spam at October 12, 2003 02:50 PM | PERMALINK

My biggest problem is that one of my addresses is in the contact list of literally hundreds. And many of them are not too quick on updating virus definitions. So any virus that reports back email addresses to get picked up by spam gets mine.

Posted by: Rob at October 12, 2003 02:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'll 2nd the Mozilla/Thunderbird comments. I don't even know how much spam I get anymore (although I know it's substantial). If I'm (un)lucky, I'll see one spam a week anymore.

Posted by: snoopy at October 12, 2003 02:54 PM | PERMALINK

Server side filtering is *NOT* an option here folks. Speaking as an ISP tech support person, the chances of a false positive on the ISP side are not very high, but the potential harm is high enough to make it unworkable.

Marketing through opt-out direct marketing should be strictly illegal. Sure, you can't shut down the spammers, but you can shut down some of the source. Opt-in commercial messages are fine, but they should be double verify. (Reply to the e-mail then go to a website to verify with a click)

Posted by: Karmakin at October 12, 2003 03:09 PM | PERMALINK

Spam filtering is nice, and I rely upon it heavily, but it doesn't solve the much bigger problem of bandwidth and server space eaten up by spam. Spam is cheap to send because its considerable costs are mostly externalized onto the ISPs.

For the life of me, I can't understand why spam can't be covered under a law similar to the junk fax law. It's the same thing -- foisting the cost of your advertising off on someone else. How can spammers possibly have a more powerful lobby than the ISPs and users who want spam stopped? There aren't that many of them, and they're not that rich.

Posted by: obeah at October 12, 2003 03:10 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking as a sysadmin, the "working on a plan" comment from Concentric is BS. There are easy things they could do on their servers to reduce the amount of spam. I've implemented several on servers at my job, and most people on my network are down to 1-2 spams a week.

I third the Mozilla/Thunderbird/Netscape recommendation. IMHO, its most important feature is that it is not vulnerable to almost all of the viruses that can exploit Outlook. Combine it with XP's firewall and an anti-virus software that scans incoming emails, and any system will be fairly secure.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA at October 12, 2003 03:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'm getting the exact same comment spam too. It started a couple of days back for me - two comments and got up to about fourteen today. My blog barely registers out there, and the comments spam has largely been directed at those of my posts which have been quoted by others.

Posted by: Ben at October 12, 2003 03:16 PM | PERMALINK

My ISP is also the provincial telephone company and I get no spam. Ever....ven though I use my real email addy on many of my internet transactions.

If Sasktel can do it, anyone can.

Posted by: Jane at October 12, 2003 03:19 PM | PERMALINK

granted, I'm a geek who runs his own mailserver, but spamassasin and sa-exim (which punts the spam at SMTP time, so it can actually give an SMTP error) works great for me.

spamassassin does naive bayesian classification, which really kicked in after a month or so. at this point, one spam or so a week slips through -- and the false positives (there hasn't been one yet, but there will eventually be) would always get an SMTP error so they knew to resend in a slightly different way.

best of all, refusing spam at SMTP time means my addresses actually (albeit slowly) get cleaned *out* of spam lists, since they give errors.

Posted by: wcw at October 12, 2003 03:45 PM | PERMALINK

MT Plug-in fix for comment spam coming Monday, if you trust Jay. He's been working on it for several days.

Posted by: Linkmeister at October 12, 2003 03:50 PM | PERMALINK

I just turned off the url field for comments on my site. Didn't want to, but this round set me off, I'm tired of deleting. No way to post a hyperlink = no spam. I hope can't imagine it being worth a spammers time to post text urls in hopes that someone copy and pastes... You never know though.

Posted by: Ae at October 12, 2003 03:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

you might want to read this statement by Hormel Food Inc. regarding the use of the term "SPAM" in this uppercase form.

H
Also, the depiction of the can, while cute (Hormel did something similar), may not sit well with them in this context.

Posted by: Felix Deutsch at October 12, 2003 04:09 PM | PERMALINK

Even worse than "sysadmin@microsoft.co" is using someone else's domain. I've had spammers use "nuthouse.com" and "working.com" and believe me THAT can cause problems. You get a LOT of nasty e-mail from people who hate spammers...

Posted by: Dave Johnson at October 12, 2003 04:11 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going to plug the Mozilla/Thunderbird Bayesian filters yet again.

Additionally, even better machine learning spam filters will probably be coming down the pike in the very near future. I do work on machine learning applications to intrusion detection, which basically boils down to anomaly detection. So in the process of figuring out how to detect malicious (i.e. virus infected) emails, we found that we'd stumbled across a fairly effective spam detector. So I suspect you'll see similar things entering common usage within the next 5 years or so, depending on how efficient folks manage to make the training requirement.

So even if you don't get a legal solution, you should be getting a technical one fairly soon.

Posted by: Nick at October 12, 2003 04:22 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone explain to me the journalistic rationale invoked in the Plame affair?

Among the six journalists who refused to print the Plame story, why is their source considered worth of protection?

They committed nothing to print. They are now aware that a serious breach of national security occured.

Why do they they feel obliged to conceal the identity of the person/people whose criminal revelation they never reported?

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 04:31 PM | PERMALINK

Ooops. Wrong comment section.

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 04:32 PM | PERMALINK

Military Leaders Speak of Clark's Flaws

Saturday October 11, 2003 6:31 PM


By NANCY BENAC

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Wesley Clark, the retired four-star general who is running for president, got himself in hot water with his Pentagon bosses more than once in his 34-year military career.

Clark matter-of-factly recounts a time when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was so irked he grumbled that Clark had ``one foot on a banana peel and one foot in the grave.'' As it turned out, less than a year later Clark was yanked out of his job as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander early, his military career abruptly over.

Plenty of generals in the U.S. military have been chewed out, of course. And plenty of Clark's former colleagues in the military speak highly of him. But it is notable that a number of fellow retired officers now speak frankly about what they see as his shortcomings as a leader.

The man who vaulted to the head of the Democratic pack since declaring his candidacy three weeks ago is running on the luster of a standout career that took him from first in his class at West Point to a Silver Star earned in Vietnam to the top ranks of Pentagon brass.

Heated disputes over strategy and tactics, particularly during combat, are inevitable among officers at that level, but not questions about personal ethics.

So it raised eyebrows last month when the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, gave a barbed answer when asked what he thought about Clark as a presidential candidate.

``I've known Wes for a long time,'' Shelton said. ``I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. ... I'll just say Wes won't get my vote.''

The general has since declined to elaborate. Clark responded that he and Shelton had had ``professional disagreements and for him they became personal.''

At the time of Clark's early recall from his NATO tenure in 1999, the Pentagon said he was relieved of command simply to make way for another officer waiting to assume the position. It was Shelton who broke the news to Clark.

Several other retired officers, while crediting Clark for tremendous intellect and determination, also raise questions about trustworthiness and whether his personal ambition and drive to succeed caused him to overstep his bounds and go outside the established chain of command.

Retired Gen. Dennis Reimer, a former Army chief of staff, describes Clark as an intelligent, ``hardworking, ambitious individual who really applies himself hard.''

But, Reimer said, ``Some of us were concerned about the fact that he was focused too much upward and not down on the soldiers. I've always believed you ought to be looking down toward your soldiers and not up at how to please your boss. ... I just didn't see enough of that in Wes.''

Clark, for his part, acknowledges he had conflicts with former Defense Secretary William Cohen and some top Pentagon officials. He attributes that in his memoir to pushing relentlessly against the military's ``innate conservatism'' to accomplish his assigned missions, particularly in Bosnia and during the 1999 Kosovo campaign.

Ret. Army Brig. Gen. David Grange, the U.S. commander in Bosnia at that time, says Clark was so focused on succeeding that ``he would maybe not be cognizant of some of the feelings or concerns of some of the people around him.''

``There's no question that General Clark is for General Clark,'' said Grange, who added nonetheless that Clark had always treated him well personally.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Marc Cisneros recalls hearing that Clark was competing against him in 1996 for a four-star position heading the U.S. Southern Command, a job for which the Army was backing Cisneros. Cisneros says Clark ``just outright lied'' when confronted, and denied to Cisneros that he was seeking the job, which did go to Clark. ``I worry about his ethical standards regarding honesty and forthrightness,'' Cisneros said.

Clark campaign spokesman Matt Bennett said no one, particularly a high achiever such as Clark, can go through a 34-year career without ruffling some feathers or bruising egos. Further, the campaign pointed to a number of former generals who speak well of Clark.

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who has known Clark for decades and counts him a friend, said one source of friction comes from the fact that Clark the intellect was not a natural fit in the Army culture. But he says Clark nonetheless proved himself a kind and capable leader.

``Look, for 34 years when there was a tough problem the local leadership asked Wes Clark to take on the problem,'' McCaffrey said. ``This guy has been incredibly successful at doing the country's business.''

Two other retired lieutenant generals who worked with Clark, Dan Christman and Don Kerrick, said friction involving Clark was to be expected as he tried to balance the interests of NATO allies and the United States.

``We knew that he was a man of his word and that he would deliver what we expected,'' said Kerrick, who was deputy national security adviser to President Clinton when Clark was at NATO.

Posted by: a at October 12, 2003 04:39 PM | PERMALINK

Hi guys, here is a spam solution that REALLY works. Wcw mentioned SpamAssassin above. SA is pretty good, it got about 65% of the 200 to 300 daily spams I was receiving. But I still had to download them, have Eudora filter them (via the header that SA adds) then delete them.

I also still had dozens of spams that got through. So finally, I installed a "challenge response" system on my (unix) mail server. The one I use is called Active Spam Killer (http://www.paganini.net/ask). Another program which does the same thing with a lot more fancy features is TMDA (google and you shall find).

With Active Spam Killer (ASK) every email is returned to the sender, with a request for confirmation. Since spammers almost never have valid return addresses, they never respond. The people you do want to hear from just have to reply to the "challenge" email once. Then they are added to your "whitelist" and allowed through immediately thereafter.

I can't emphasize enough how wonderful my email experience has been since installing ASK. It's like being back in, oh, 1996? When there was little, if any spam. I'm still getting hundreds of spams a day, but I never see them, as they just sit on my server for a few days, then get deleted automatically by a cron job after a few days, since the spammers rarely respond.

Every day now, I get perhaps one or two spams, when the occasional spammer does have the gall to confirm their message, or they sometimes get through via an ASK error. Then I just add them to my "blacklist" which not only blocks them, but sends them a "nastygram" in reply.

As you can see, I'm delighted with the performance of ASK, and recommend it highly to anyone who is receiving massive amounts of spam. There are a number of other "challenge response" systems as well which probably also work well, such as TMDA (tagged message delivery agent).

Posted by: matter at October 12, 2003 04:48 PM | PERMALINK

I use Spamcop, and have been happy with that. They also use spamassasin and check for viruses, so I have double protection (with McAfee). There is a free version of Spamcop, or you can pay $31 a year (which I do). You get a 'spamcop' e-mail address, which keeps away most spammers.
Report this garbage and fight back!
At one point, a spammer used my e-mail address (sending spam to me!) and I fought it by reporting it. He tried to send me some nasty viruses, but Spamcop stopped them.
I never really minded the nude Britney and J Lo photo spam (albeit dime-sized at the website), but these days it's all penis enlargement and econo-viagra.

Posted by: Kevin at October 12, 2003 05:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ultimately (and you'll be surprised to hear this from me) this is an issue that needs forceful government intervention.

Spam will not stop until it is made uneconomical. Period. When the risk of paying large fines and being hounded into bankruptcy, or doing jail time, exceeds the atytractiveness of the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year that organized spammers make, spam will cease. When litigation can be pursued up the chain (now he's in with the trial lawyers? is he feverish?) to companies who purchase lists et. al. from spam-related sources, companies will care where their marketing data comes from and compliance will choke off the other end of the spamming business.

Spamming is a pure example of theft redefined as business. Until it is defined OUT of business, it will continue.

The do-not-call list in the phone world will not work online - it's far too attractive a target as a "guaranteed good addresses" spam list all in one place. But the same consumer revolt and pressure thjat led to the do not call list needs to be repeated. And if the DMA and it corporate shills get run over in the process, well, that's just a bonus.

And yeah, this is all coming from a conservative.

Posted by: Joe Katzman at October 12, 2003 05:53 PM | PERMALINK

I have BellSouth DSL, and it has a system called "MailGuard" that works pretty well. Didn't really think about spam (on that account, anyway) till SoBig hit, and all the filtered-out messages clogged my account, since blocked mails are saved on the server.

I don't know why the spammers bother with me, anyway. My penis is quite large enough, thank you!

Posted by: hamletta at October 12, 2003 06:00 PM | PERMALINK

the two email thing works ok for email spam, but not for comments spam on your blog. I've been getting it daily too - for jewelry, porn, finance companies....getting sick of it

Posted by: Darren Rowse at October 12, 2003 06:10 PM | PERMALINK

I use Hosting Matters as well - glad to know I'm in such good company!!! I've always had top notch service from them. However, for e-mail hosting I like to have more features than they offer, so I use Luxsci.com which offers excellent SPAM filtering, as well as IMAP, etc. Also, a while ago I wrote a post about spam with some hints and history of the term.

Posted by: Kerim Friedman at October 12, 2003 06:10 PM | PERMALINK

Challenge-response systems like ASK and TDMA just shift the burden from you to the people who want to contact you legitimately, wreak havoc on mailing lists and are generally a bad idea, like all egoistical schemes.

Posted by: Felix Deutsch at October 12, 2003 06:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not very "tech-savvy", but I use MailWasher, free and easy from www.mailwasher.net

Posted by: NC Progressive at October 12, 2003 06:18 PM | PERMALINK

I work for a company which is (among other things) a small ISP. We use some combination of mimedefang, spamassasin and blackhole lists, and we quarantine the offending emails so that the customer can get it later if it turns out to be a false positive. We have a low rate of false positives, although naturally there are some.

On the other hand, apparently I pissed off a spammer somewhere. I'm getting the bounce messages for their Viagra spam...

Posted by: M. at October 12, 2003 06:28 PM | PERMALINK

I 3rd the recommendation of Mozilla/Thunderbird Mail Recommendation. There spam filtering is amazing.

Posted by: tk421 at October 12, 2003 06:29 PM | PERMALINK

I have to put a plug in for Apple's mail program. It has Bayesian filtering and works well as a mail reader. (But I guess you Apple users already know that.)

I'm on Hosting Matters, too, but I still get the occasional spam (in my "junk" folder) and it incenses me. hese people should all be in jail.

It should be criminalized conduct. It costs amazing amounts of time and money, and it's never the spammers'.

Posted by: Tom Burka at October 12, 2003 06:56 PM | PERMALINK

In Florida, the death penalty wing-nuts change the law from "cruel or unusual" to "cruel and unusual". We were the only state that had that disintion until the Republicans wanted to have a big BBQ with "ole sparky".

I would not advocate the death penalty for spammers (although some days I would like to strangle those jerks), but maybe some good old colonial punishment tactics would work.

Get caught spamming. Fine. The state locks you up in the stockades, and people can throw rotten food at you. If you send porno spam, then the locals can kick you in the groin area. Spiked baseball cleats are prefered.

Is this unusual? Maybe. Is it cruel? Spamming is a very cruel waste time, money, resources, etc., so I think a swift kick in the groin to the spammers is justified. Therefore, this passes the test. Lawmakers please pass this proposed spam bill.

Once a few porno spammers get locked up and the impacted people kick them in the groin, I bet the other spammers will think twice about spamming again.

Posted by: Jeremi Tripp at October 12, 2003 07:24 PM | PERMALINK

my isp, value.net, which is part of amerion.com, has a great spam filter at the level of their server. It quarantines everything there, and I can view the subject lines to see if anything I wanted didn't get through. I don't do it very often anymore, as I've added lists of e-mail correspondents to the filter that always get through.

Do other isp's do this sort of thing?

Posted by: pmacfar at October 12, 2003 08:02 PM | PERMALINK

One more vote for Mozilla or Mozilla-Thunderbird. The Bayesian spam filter is completely awesome and it doesn't take long to train. Your Mom will read her e-mail again and, better yet, MS-Outlook specific viruses won't hit her.

Posted by: sberry at October 12, 2003 08:33 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, there needs to be a legally enforceable do-no-spam list. It needs to support wildcards, and it needs to have exactly one entry:

*@*.*

Posted by: Keith Thompson at October 12, 2003 08:41 PM | PERMALINK

> Yes, there needs to be a legally enforceable do-no-spam list. It needs to support wildcards, and it needs to have exactly one entry:
> *@*.*

Wouldn't it be better to just make it *@*, since it would still be possible to spam people on a LAN it it was *@*.*? (since computer names on LANs usually don't have .s) Or even better, just * ?

And I so wish I had my own mailserver like wcw... Ah, well. Maybe when I'm out of high school and have a job.

Posted by: dolphinling at October 12, 2003 09:33 PM | PERMALINK

The solution I hear now and then from computer programmers is a different email protocol in which the destination machine asks the sending computer to factor a large composite number. The burden to small volume senders would be relatively small, but it would raise the cost of large volume spamming.

What I want to know is why this new protocol hasn't shown up yet.

Posted by: matt at October 12, 2003 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

www.popfile.com works with Outlook, Mozilla or any other email client, and it goes beyond filtering spam; it will categorize all your email, so the family email can go in one bucket, the jokes in another, the info related ones in a third.

Posted by: jim at October 12, 2003 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

there are lots of ways to keep spam under control for users. But what's needed is a way to stop the stuff coming out. In the long run, I think that the only thing which will work is the slow emergence of a network of paid-for email. This would penalise, I know, all sorts of mailing lists. But they could go over to RDF feeds or something. For normal, personal, email users, charging a eurocent a message or something would be fine. No one would have to use this system. But you'd know that anything which came through it was clean, because if a spam run of 5,000,000 addresses cost 50,000 Euros, or dollars, to send, it would not be sent. So people would voluntarily use such a service, because it would deliver the assurance that your message was not spam. If I send out 200 emails, that's $2.00 a month, which I would happily pay. All that's needed is an unfakeable way of ensuring that mail which went through this service could be uniquely identified. Maybe tripoli would produce something like that. Then the only spam filter anyone would ever need would be "paid for?"

Posted by: Andrew Brown at October 13, 2003 01:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin you might want to set up a system with your mother's email that there has to be a code word in the subject line. Without that everything else goes straight to trash. Since she is only getting a few emails from friends this might solve her problem quite quickly.

Posted by: Philip Akin at October 13, 2003 01:36 AM | PERMALINK

Corporations are people too - I do believe the Supreme Court said so - and their speech is covered under the 1st Amendment. Do we really want the government deciding who can say what to whom, or just what is considered commercial speech? Are we going to ban billboards now too? Are jack-booted thugs going to shut down little Timmy's lemonade stand, just because icky commerce offends the sensibilities of certain groups? This country was built on commerce - liberals should realize that it is business that pays for their government cheese.

Okay, that was only partly sarcastic. In real life, is anyone actually worried about a slippery slope? Declaring a small part of our society "off-limits," publicly owned, and not subject to market calculation sounds good enough. And media is a great place to start - information and democracy and all that. But how will the government decide what is and what is not commercial speech, esp. if this idea is expanded? Seems like it could be dangerous.

Posted by: andrew at October 13, 2003 03:11 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
Philip has the right idea. Set up a filter to move the genuine messages to a seperate folder. That way she can just highlight everything else in the in-box, delete it, and move on to the real messages.

Goof

Posted by: Goof Beyou at October 13, 2003 05:45 AM | PERMALINK

the first thing you should do with your mother is get her off of the client she is using now (which, i admit, will be difficult). it your message, you claim she must download her mail to read it, so i infer that she is using a pop account.

switch to imap and she'll only have to download the headers and then she can delete the junkmail. i also nth the suggestion that the mozilla/netscape/thunderbird mail client. i've switched a year ago and i've never been happier.

Posted by: yam at October 13, 2003 05:46 AM | PERMALINK

I had a Yahoo account once, I got no spam at all. I attribute that to using "non-standard" characters in my user name (like an underscore). (I assume that as the spammers consider all possible combinations of letters for a user name they do not use some characters).

Fairly simple, but does anyone know if this is reliable?

Posted by: Ron at October 13, 2003 08:46 AM | PERMALINK

I have paid for a Unix shell account from a local ISP since 1994 or so. There are three reasons I still use it today as my primary mail-dump, even though it's on every spammer in America's address list:

1) I really don't feel like changing the email address I've used for hordes of mailing lists, website registrations and contact address requests.

2) It's hard to get zapped by viral email when you read your mail on a Unix shell.

3) I can do tricks with procmail in a Unix environment that I (can't/don't know how to) do in a Windows environment. When the last worm started grinding out terabytes of junk mail, for instance, all it took was a list of subject headers and two minutes of typing and WHAM! Next to nothing got through from then on, and those exceptions were quickly patchable.

If there is a way to implement procmail for a Windows mail client, I'd love to know what it is.

Posted by: have clue -- will travel at October 13, 2003 08:56 AM | PERMALINK

We need to have a take no prisoners approach to these spammers and start throwing them in jail.

Posted by: ron galaktik at October 13, 2003 09:13 AM | PERMALINK

Yahoo has great spam filters -- I've generally kept my email private, until recently. I've started getting spam, but rarely more than 5 or 10 in a single day. And a significant portion of those are Nigerian swindle letters, so I can't complain. But dude -- where's my 20 million?

Posted by: Charles Knutson at October 13, 2003 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

andrew,

No problem. any unsolicited bulk email should be illegal, whether it is commercial or not. It's still theft of resources.

Posted by: obeah at October 13, 2003 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

oops.

Posted by: obeah at October 13, 2003 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

I have to second Andrew Brown's suggestion concerning a fee for e-mail. There was a New York Times Magazine profile of a spammer a few weeks back, and it really gave you a sense of just how slim the profit margins are. An e-mail surcharge of a tenth cent or so per message would be all but invisible for most e-mail users, but would make spam largely unprofitable.

Sure, some legitimate businesses might suffer, and list-servs would probably have to migrate over to bulletin boards, but the greater good would be served, no doubt.

Why doesn't this solution get more attention? Are people really so cheap that they can't imagine paying a couple more dollars a month to save hours a week? Or is there a snob factor--since the "smart set" uses all sorts of semi-successful filtering programs, spam is only a problem for the technically incompetant?

Posted by: jlw at October 13, 2003 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Why doesn't this solution get more attention? Are people really so cheap that they can't imagine paying a couple more dollars a month to save hours a week? Or is there a snob factor--since the "smart set" uses all sorts of semi-successful filtering programs, spam is only a problem for the technically incompetant?

Not a single discussion of spam ever takes place where several alternatives to the SMTP standard are suggested. Yet none of them have been implemented or deployed. Why is that?

SMTP is like the QWERTY keyboard. Better solutions exist, but the mere fact that everyone has standardized on SMTP means that moving to a different, more spam-resistant email messaging standard will be extremely difficult.

The same problem exists with IP addresses. Current IPs have a dotted quad format that can be encapsulated in four bytes, which worked fine in past decades but is causing an IP address shortage now, since only 4,294,967,296 unique IP addresses can exist. A newer standard (IPv6) exists that uses many more bytes for each address, but its adoption is being slowed by the sheer inertia and investment in the existing IP system. (Existing software has to be rewritten, etc.)

Furthermore, a replacement protocol for SMTP will be hampered by an immense disadvantage- the existence of spammers and other troublemakers who will immediately begin trying to figure out ways around it. They may discover a vulnerability in the new protocol that renders it as spam-friendly as SMTP. Coming up with a protocol that can survive sustained technological attack for decades is almost impossible, and unless it's clear to everyone that your protocol will be able to withstand prolonged and withering attempts to undermine it, nobody will want to make the initial investment in supporting it. This is a problem that IPv6 (for example) doesn't even have, and even without it, IPv6 adoption is progressing at a snail's pace.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey at October 13, 2003 02:58 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: Ren? at October 13, 2003 03:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's mom is moving off dialup, but if anyone else is still on, I recommend MailWasher (Windows, free or pay); it downloads enough of the message to classify it and allows you to delete off the server, filter, blacklist, friends-list, etc. I've been using it for a while and I really like it. http://www.mailwasher.net/

Posted by: Kate Nepveu at October 14, 2003 08:11 AM | PERMALINK

I have gotten like 3 pieces of spam in the past 6 years on my private account. I don't use it for anything except mailing family and friends.

My yahoo account, which is used for places like this, nytimes sign ups, and so on, gets like 10 pieces a day.

::shrug:: Not that big a problem for me. But I find it interesting that Joe up there, from winds of change, who is a conservative, is notably liberal (pro big government) on something that actually effects him significantly.

:)

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