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Archive for the ‘Spam’ Category

Stuff That Bothers Me

Here is an arbitrary list of items which contribute to hassle and even distress:

  • Monolithic content management systems such as PHP-Nuke (and its derivatives or siblings) still attract spam. My forum section has begun eating spam on a daily basis and it is very time consuming. I restore from backup every couple of days, merely reverting to an older database state.
  • The blog’s CAPTCHA filter has been cracked, so I must cope with over 100 spam per day.
  • Some people post incoherent comments which are not only characterised by poor grammar and typos. It makes one wonder if click-and-point sobriety tests should replace CAPTCHA-based filters.
  • With the increase in the number of Windows zombies on the Web, the amount of junk mail that I receive doubled within a few months. I am not alone in this, so I at least find some sympathy.

Speaking of which, the following showed up in the news last night:

Spam zombies give UK ISPs the fear

A massive 96 per cent of 50 ISP respondents cited the proliferation of botnets – networks of virus-infected PCs under the control of hackers – as a key business issue.

According to industry analyst firm Gartner, seven in 10 items of spam originate from infected PCs.

Let us take a moment to thank out friends at Microsoft. Owing to their so-easy-to-hijack operating system, we all choke on spam.

  • Lawsuit against Google over PageRank got bloggers humming. It was a mastery of incompetence. One such lawsuit was apparently successful, so algorithms that discriminate (not deliberately so) can lead their operator to paying fines.
  • Judging by one of the OSDL mailing lists, to which I have been subscribed for while, the OSDL mailing lists (much like xmms-dev) mainly attract spam, kooks, and posers.
  • Outlook Express or Outlook (same codebase; same rubbish; one word less) are a bit of a handful. I am tired of receiving E-mail where responses, are top-posted (‘jeopardy-style’ composition, i.e. answer comes first, then the question).
  • Making your software exclusively available for Windows is like selling and displaying your merchandise at a garbage site just because most prospective customers reside.
  • Digg version 3 does not discourage dupes as effectively as it used to. It makes it somewhat inferior to its predecessor. But I digress…

The Initiative for Better E-mail

Junk mail

LAST year I got a bit frustrated with the nature of most E-mails that had been reaching my box. I then decided to write a short FAQ (while I was lying by a swimming pool, if I recall correctly). Over time, I found a way of reducing and managing the volume, which often led to unnecessary distractions. I even separated my E-mail into several ‘tiers’, which unlike filters, I find very handy. Some other communication was routed to Wikis.

Over two years ago I came to discover that Knuth had given up on E-mail altogether. I have just come across another nice homepage which expresses the frustration when it comes to badly-formatted E-mails, so I thought I’d share it by quoting:

E-mail is my main form of communication and the best way to reach me is to email howcome@@@opera.@com. I have used email since 1985 and, unlike Donald Knuth, I plan to continue using it in the future. I recommend these rules for writing electronic mail:

  1. Write e-mail messages in plain text (not HTML) with around 70 characters per line.
  2. When quoting other messages, insert your own text underneath the quoted text so that the logical order of the text is preserved
  3. Avoid e-mail attachments: send URLs pointing to your attachments instead.
  4. In particular, never send documents in proprietary formats as e-mail attachments. PDF is acceptable if the formatting of the documentis essential to understanding the document.

If you look at the source of the page (either the original or even this short post), you’ll find a nice trick of obfuscating E-mail addresses, which can prevent mass-harvesting by ratbot, for subsequent spamming.

In Fight Against Spammers, Google Drops Pages

Google Cookie

SEVERAL weeks ago I discussed some of the problems which Google are having with their cache. The links therein paint a full picture that comprises many speculations. Genuine pages from various Web sites across the Web are being dropped. After a while, some more evidence has been reaching the surface, e.g.

Something really weird happened when I had the password problem last week — I completely disappeared from Google.

As discussions, which are oddly enough being deleted (Google may be trying to hide the existence and scale of the problem) indicate, something quite major is happening ‘behind the scenes’.I submitted a relevant link to Digg. As the thread indicates, Google is indexing billions of spammy pages and is apparently dropping and neglecting genuine Web sites in the process. It is not deliberate on Google’s part, but the outcome are poorer search results and reduced traffic, if you are among the Webmasters affected.

Service to Centralise Plagiarism Awareness

Book scanning

WHEN Webmasters discover that someone stole their content, they often report this to Google. Blog plagiarism has truly become a plague, but stolen content, spam, site scraping, and copyrights infringements ought to be reported to all search engines, which is why I set up this one particular Web page. It enables any Webmaster or user to report content misuse to three search engines at once (or in parallel at the least).

What was the motivator for this little handy frameset? I noticed that many people report undesirable content to just a single copany called Google. But what about the others? Shouldn’t all be infomed at once? I believe there should be an impartial, not-for-profit body that watches over content theft. somehat like the DMCA, I suppose. Such a body (or site-accessible service with interfaces) could centralise knowledge regarding Web offenders and prevent various companies from doing this independently, merely reinventing the wheel to achieve the same (search) results.

Think big(ger). Let’s get the Web more organised, better structure, and immune to fraud. Never delegate this responsibility to companies, which are slowly making our Web more commercialised and semi-privately owned.

Chinese Spam on the Rise

Stuffed mailboxes
More spam from more remote countries

Inevitably, with higher bandwidth, more connected nodes, and little supervision (other than endless censorship), Chinese spam is gaining steam. That said, 80% of all spam was recently said to be despatched from compromised Windows computers, which makes this crime passive. As the BBC reports:

The US is close to losing its place as the top spam sending nation on Earth.

Statistics from security firm Sophos show that China is fast catching up the US as a source of junk e-mail.

The amount of spam on my sites has become too overwhelming recently. Certain accounts I will just filter blindly, without bothering to check any spam boxes for false positives. When it takes nearly an hour going through spam, it becomes both unacceptable and impractical.

My Wikis are repeatedly falling victims to Chinese spam and that’s just the beginning of the story, which involves much beyond E-mail. The Web becomes a scary place when much of its traffic is malignant. It becomes hostile, as opposed to user-friendly. It deters the use of E-mail, much as hacking forces some sites to go offline, due to high maintenance costs (time/money).

Simultaneous Spam Reports

Google portal

TO anyone who is interested: I have put together a page that enables content spam to be reported to several search engines in tandem. The purpose of this little ‘utility’ is to centralise various pages of interest, which motivates spam reports that reach more than just a single company. The ‘meat’ of the report can be conveniently copied and pasted from one frame to another. Report spammy sites that violate ethics.

Spam from the Future

Stuffed mailboxes

SPAMMERS are not utterly dumb. They constantly learn how to get past the filters and receive more attention from their recipient. Subject lines are often fudged in such a way so that they beg to be read, but it doesn’t stop there.

Consider, for instance, spam that goes ‘on top of the pile’ by having a future date (thus the title of this essay), assuming reverse chronological mail readers. Such spam can stand outamong the pile of trite spam. Also consider spam with very odd dates, no dates or ones which goes years and decades into the past. In the latter case, this puts message at the bottom edge of the inbox, which again, appeals for more attention.

Lastly, and perhaps most annoyingly, certain spam is being sent with a sender address which resides the recipients domain, which can under many circumstances have it automatically whitelisted.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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