SPAM - fresh or canned?

Thu, 09 Jul 2009

Spam (of the electronic variety) is the bane of Internet. It accounts for more traffic than any three other services combined. And our reaction is to try to block it. This works about as well as anti-virus software, which is always one step behind the spammers and virus writers. It's also the reason something will always get through.

Those of us who run mail servers can tell you just how bad it is. And until the root of the problem is addressed, it will never stop. But no one is interested in treating the cause, only the symptoms.

My good friend and associate, Craig Owings, has been telling me what the solution is for years: spam makes money for someone, and that someone pays the spammer. Stop chasing the spammer, chase the money. When the money dries up, so will the spam.

How many of you have heard of or subscribed to Gevalia Coffee. I used to. Probably some of the best in the world. I will never buy it again, not if it's the last coffee on the planet. Gevalia Coffee hired a spam house to market their product. And they're not the only "legitimate" business to be suckered by spammers.

Most spam, though, caters to insecure people. I once glanced through my spam folder at the topics to get an idea of what kinds of spam are the most prevalent (and thereby get a profile of the target audience). If you were to believe the spam, Americans are: heavily indebted sexual fiends, poorly endowed, who need Viagra or similar drugs so they can keep going all night to please their partner. The spams promise instant debt elimination, larger body parts, greater sexual stamina, and of course porno when the promised nymphos fail to appear. And of course sprinkled amongst all these pills that you just have to have are the occasional Gevalia Coffee or other business that thinks that spam is the answer to all their marketing needs.

This is a pretty ugly picture. It has caused knee-jerk reactions to try to fix technologically what is a social problem. What's really astounding is the number of insecure morons that must be buying something, or no one would pay spammers. And it doesn't have to be many morons either. Consider, the spammer just needs to show a return. If even one-tenth of one percent of all the hundreds of millions of spam e-mails sent gets a sale. That's tens of thousands of sales. And it costs the spammer nothing. He just steals resources from everyone else. By definition, spammers are leaches. Sucking the life out of the Internet. Slowing down access to web sites by clogging the 'net with hundreds of millions of garbage e-mails. Slowing down access YOU pay for.

The only way to stop this is to fine those who hire spammers right out of business. Because, let's face it, there are millions of insecure cretins willing to believe their problem of not being able to have sex with a dozen partners a night stems not from their being insecure cretins, but from their lack of endowments and their inability to keep going all night. Good luck convincing them otherwise. Is the fining and/or closure of the legitimate businesses who hire spammers going to happen? Not likely -- vested interests and all that.

Meanwhile, the problem continues to get worse. I could most probably replace that overloaded 16 Meg of RAM, four CPU quad-core monster with a small embedded system were it not for the thousands of spams per hour my system wastes cycles on rejecting or discarding. And if I let the spam through, e-mail would become worthless to me. After all, it would take weeks to sift though one day's worth of spams to find the one or two e-mails I need to read and respond to. But that would leave me no time for anything else.

So, the occasional spam gets through, and the occasion legitimate e-mail gets dumped. Not something I'm happy about, but am powerless to change alone. We all created the mess. Only we all can fix it.


SPAM - fresh or canned?

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