If it’s advertised in spam, it must be true

The New York Times chats with antispam vendor MessageLabs about all the crazy and clever tricks spammers try to get their genitalia enlargement pharmaceuticals and pump-and-dump stocks to us:

But spammers have hardly given up, and as they improve and adapt their techniques, network managers must still face down the pill-pushers, get-rich-quick artists and others who use billions of unwanted e-mail messages to troll for income…

Shortly after MessageLabs created a filter to catch the stock spams, the images they contained changed again.

They were now arriving with what looked to the naked eye like a gray border. Zooming in, however, the MessageLabs team discovered that the border was made up of thousands of randomly ordered dots. Indeed, every message in that particular spam campaign was generated with a new image of the border — each with its own random array of dots.”

I have to admit, now that my ISP migrated to a new mail platform, and with Gmail filtering the rest of my mail, and finally Mozilla running a Bayesian filter, things seem to have quieted down. But I still recognize half of these tricks mentioned in the article, and it’s interesting to finally find out what was the reasoning behind the scenes. Junkmailers seem to be using every hack in the book, pushing HTML and IP to heights unknown.

Examples: the careful crafting of messages with spelling mistakes or metaphors (such as the use of “gappy text” or calling a Rolex a “wrist accessory”), to splicing email with images and obscure HTML, to using viruses and spyware to turn our PCs into their email servers.

Another crazy piece of trivia: it is estimated that 10% of all email traffic on the Internet originates from two men. One is a Ukrainian spammer with four known aliases, and the other is a convicted Boston spammer currently hiding out in Russia.

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