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Trench Warfare in the Age of The Laser-Guided Missile

The historical development of spam fighting is allowing computer-aware criminals to take the upper hand in the fight against what has now evolved into a completely technologically and organizationally merged threat to public safety. If we do not change our strategic approach immediately, the battle, indeed even the war may be all but lost... Of late, much has been said in the popular and computer press about a vector that is annoying, but hardly critical in nature: 'Image spam'. Spammers have jumped on the new technology of 'image-only' payloads, which morph one pixel per message, rendering them unique, and traditional check-sum blocking strategies ineffective... Fortunately this fraudulent stock-touting scheme leaves a paper trail that has allowed for some successful prosecutions in the latter half of the year. Stock spamming, while popular at present time is likely to decline as legal actions increase... more»

Port 25 Blocking, or Fix SMTP and Leave Port 25 Alone for the Sake of Spam?

Larry Seltzer wrote an interesting article for eWeek, on port 25 blocking, the reasons why it was being advocated, and how it would stop spam. This quoted an excellent paper by Joe St.Sauver, that raised several technically valid and true corollaries that have to be kept in mind when blocking port 25 -- "cough syrup for lung cancer" would be a key phrase... Now, George Ou has just posted an article on ZDNET that disagrees with Larry's article, makes several points that are commonly cited when criticizing port 25 blocking, but then puts forward the astonishing, and completely wrong, suggestion, that worldwide SPF records are going to be a cure all for this problem. Here is my reply to him... more»

North Dakota Judge Gets it Wrong

Ever been prosecuted for tracking spam? Running a traceroute? Doing a zone transfer? Asking a public internet server for public information that it is configured to provide upon demand? No? Well, David Ritz has. And amazingly, he lost the case. Here are just a few of the gems that the court has the audacity to call "conclusions of law." Read them while you go donate to David's legal defense fund... more»

How to Stop Spam

I got a letter the other day from AOL postmaster Carl Hutzler, about how the Internet community could get rid of spam, if it really wanted to. With his permission, here are some excerpts. "Spam is a completely solvable problem. And it does not take finding every Richter, Jaynes, Bridger, etc to do it (although it certainly is part of the solution). In fact it does not take email identity technologies either (although these are certainly needed and part of the solution)." more»

Oklahoma Man Wins $10 Million Judgment Against a Spammer

On Thursday the 22nd, Robert Braver, an Oklahoma ISP owner who is a long time activist against both spam and junk faxes, received a default judgment of over $10 million against high profile spammer Robert Soloway and his company Newport Internet Marketing. Soloway has frequently been cited as one of the ten largest spammers in the world. more»

An Interview with the Lead Developer of SPF - Part I

CircleID recently interviewed Meng Weng Wong, the lead developer of Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and founder of Pobox.com. As one of the leading anti spam authentication schemes, SPF is used by companies such as AOL, Earthlink, SAP and supported by anti spam companies such as Sophos, Symantec, Brightmail, IronPort, Ciphertrust, MailArmory, MailFrontier, Roaring Penguin Software, and Communigate Pro. Last month, Microsoft announced its agreement to merge Caller ID, its own proposed anti spam authentication scheme, with SPF -- the joint standard is called 'Sender ID'. In this two-part interview, Meng Wong explains how SPF got started, where it is today and what could be expected in the future of email. more»

Sender Address Verification: Solving the Spam Crisis

There are many companies in the spam-fighting business and most, if not all, claim to be hugely successful. Yet spam is exponentially more prevalent today than it was just 2 years ago. How can one conclude that today's anti spam solutions are working? This year spammers will use machine-generated programs to send trillions of unsolicited email. Thankfully, a new anti-spam technology has made its way into the market. more»

Whois Privacy vs. Anonymity

The Internet is often a lawless place. Everyone knows that there are many tricks and traps lurking on the Internet, just waiting to prey on unsuspecting and innocent users. Some of these traps will trash your computer while others will turn your PC into a zombie that will broadcast messages at the virus writer's command. ...The list of annoyances and downright criminal activities seem endless. ...To make the Internet a safer place both legislators and law enforcement are now focusing on the Internet. In the crossfire that's taking place there are many ideas that are being offered up. Some of them are good and some are not. One bad decision that was recently forced upon the Internet community (without hearings -- more on this later) was to eliminate private domain name registrations for .US domain names. ...It's important to understand the difference between privacy and anonymity. more»

Is the Internet Dying?

There are indications that the Internet, at least the Internet as we know it today, is dying. I am always amazed, and appalled, when I fire up a packet monitor and watch the continuous flow of useless junk that arrives at my demarcation routers' interfaces. That background traffic has increased to the point where it makes noticeable lines on my MRTG graphs. And I have little reason for optimism that this increase will cease. Quite the contrary, I find more reason to be pessimistic and believe that this background noise will become a Niagara-like roar that drowns the usability of the Internet. And the net has very long memory... more»

Internet Governance: An Antispam Perspective

All those Internet Governance pundits who track ICANN the way paparazzi track Paris Hilton are barking up the wrong tree. They've mistaken the Department of Street Signs for the whole of the state. The real action involves words like rbldnsd, content filtering, and webs of trust. Welcome to the Internet! What's on the menu today? Spam, with some phish on the side! We've got email spam, Usenet spam, IRC spam, IM spam, Jabber spam, Web spam, blogs spam, and spam splogs. And next week we'll have some brand new VoIP spam for you. Now that we're a few years into the Cambrian explosion of messaging protocols, I'd like to present a few observations around a theme and offer some suggestions. more»

Sender ID: A Tale of Open Standards and Corporate Greed? - Part II

While everything seemed fine and various participants in these discussions were celebrating the merger of these proposals into one, as well as the support of Microsoft in this endeavor, there was an elephant in the room so to speak, and a rather large one at that. When the original Caller-ID proposal was published, a patent license came along with it. Microsoft indicated that they were planning on filing patents on Caller-ID or some of its aspects, and offered a royalty-free license for the use of their intellectual property. There was some talk about the incompatibility of the license with open source software, including comments from Eben Moglen of FSF and Richard Stallman, but Microsoft employees assured the MARID WG that the licensing issue would be resolved in time for the San Diego meeting. Except that it wasn't.  more»

Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail Compromised - But How?

One of the bigger news stories is that of 10,000 usernames and passwords of Hotmail users were posted this past week, victims of a phishing scam... It seems unlikely to me that this would be a hack where someone would break into Hotmail's servers and access the account information that way. It is much more likely that the spammers got the information by social engineering. Why is this more likely? For one, they'd have to get past all of the firewalls and security measures that Microsoft/Hotmail have to keep intruders out. more»

Does the Internet Need to be Governed?

The term "Internet Governance" has become an area of particular attention in part as a consequence of widespread recognition that the Internet represents an important area of national interest for all countries seeking to participate in the benefits of global electronic commerce, distance learning, access to the encyclopedic wealth of information on the Internet, and in the social dimension that the Internet is creating. From the perspective of governments, the Internet is simultaneously a technology that promises high economic value for parties making use of it and a challenge in that it is unlike all other telecommunications media previously invented. more»

Sender ID: A Tale of Open Standards and Corporate Greed? - Part I

A long long time ago when the Internet was still young and most people were still using clunky Apples, PCs and mainframes; two documents were published by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), part of the US Government's Department of Defense. They were called "RFC 821 - Simple Mail Transfer Protocol" and "RFC 822 - Standard for the format of ARPA Internet text messages" respectively. Written by the John Postel and Dave Crocker respectively, often referred to as some of the founding fathers of the Internet, they defined a simple text-based email system for the use of the fledging network then called the "ARPA Internet"... more»

What is Anti-Spam?

There's a lot of argument as to which "anti-spam" techniques are legitimately so called. In this article, I'd like to consider what constitutes an anti-spam technique in an ideal sense, then consider the various practiced approaches to spam mitigation in that light, drawing conclusions as to how we should frame the "anti-spam" discussion. ...For the purposes of this discussion, let "spam" refer to "unsolicited bulk email". Not everyone agrees on this definition, but it's by far the most widely accepted, and without a working definition we won't be able to define "anti-spam"... more»