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Spam The Internet

Study on the Effects of Spam on End Users 448

Posted by michael
from the nuisance-factor dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'About a third of people responded to a spam, seeking more information. And 7 percent actually bought a product or service.' Who are these people? Is this really what non-techies do with Spam? They can have my Spam if they want it :-)"
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Study on the Effects of Spam on End Users

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  • One problem... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chuck Bucket (142633) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:40AM (#7290324) Homepage Journal
    One problem is people ignoring email that isn't spam, simply because the subject line looks like it it. It may change the way subject lines are written. In the end, I think email will be like IM, you'll have to 'approve' what email you'll accept, like you have to 'approve' additions to your buddy list now. This will take away much of the openness and functionality of email, so I hope it doesn't come to that.

    CB
    • Re:One problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Vadim Grinshpun (31) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:48AM (#7290437) Homepage
      See, the problem with the 'approve' scheme (at least the simple, naive version that comes to mind) is that instead of being flooded with annoying messages you will get flooded with no-less-annoying and no-less-intrusive requests for approval/authorization, still creating a DOS-like situation due to the low SNR...

      So that won't necessarily ease the problem.
      • Unless you have an interface that consolodates the approval requests. I'd hate to not do it via an excel table form where I can sort and what not. Have it purge old entries after a while...
      • Re:One problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CelloJake (564999) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:47AM (#7291207)
        Sure, at first the approval system would suffer from DOS like problems. But once 99.999% of spam never reaches the end user, there is less incentive to send it.

        The problem will be if a large group of people still accept and read spam. The only way to stop spam will be if A) people do not buy the shit they sell or buy into the scams they offer, or B) spam is controlled by methods outside of the end users hand.

        I still think this will not be a legislative solution. I really think that a large majority of mail hosts should implement white listing, at least for messages that are sent to multiple recipients. If multiple similar messages are received by a mail host from the same or similar mail host(s) then they should be blocked. If a user wishes to be part of a legitimate mail list then there should be a way to authorize that host to send messages. Sure, it will be a pain for some mail lists but utilities will pop up to make it easier for them to do the authorization dance.

        If the top 5 mail hosts would participate, spammers would be obsolete.

        Some people would argue that blocking unauthorized messages would prevent some people from receiving mail that they would like to receive. But companies that send mail to so many people obviously are being harmful to more people than they are providing a service to. (If you call con-ing people into buying useless crap a service, even to people who fall for it.)

        -Jacob

      • by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:50AM (#7291244) Homepage Journal
        I have received over 100 messages in the last 24 hours. Less than a dozen made it through to me.

        I had one request for passage of mail, which I accepted as I knew what it was about.

        In the whole time I have used Earthlink's challenge system only two businesses have requested permission to be added to my link.

        None of the big delivery or sales sites have asked, but I did add them as my daily summary of blocked "suspicious" mail was large.

        Earthlink has two categories. know and suspected. it is from suspected that permissions can be asked about. their known spam category does not send out notifications of blocked mail

        Getting my permission requires the user/company to follow a link and ask for it. It uses the standard picture challenge technique that some advanced systems can defeat.

        In the end I love it, I no longer have to filter at my end. I also have cut down my spam to zero.

        I have yet to experience a case of repeated requests. I know I can block them permanently, so unless they roll addresses all the time all they could be at most is a request hassle.

        PS: This system is great for those who have grand parents who don't need to see that seedy side of the net. You can setup their address books for them and even review their spam online if they give you the passwords.

      • Re:One problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by meta-monkey (321000) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @12:02PM (#7291357) Journal
        This may work well for personal use, but it's an entirely seperate matter for business use. I run a small business with a heavy web presence. My business email address is on my web site, and it gets spammed constantly. Thankfully I've got a pretty good junk mail filter (OS X mail) that I check every week or so to make sure I didn't miss anything. I couldn't employ your suggested scheme, because I don't want to make it too difficult for potential clients to contact me. The more hoops I make them jump through, the less likely I am to get their money.
    • In the end, I think email will be like IM, you'll have to 'approve' what email you'll accept, like you have to 'approve' additions to your buddy list now. ...whitelist. They've been around for a while. They also don't work so hot.
    • From the previous story, the NYTimes said the following about the latest point release of os X:

      "Mac OS X Mail can screen out all messages except what comes from recent correspondents and people in your address book."

      So that day is now, for mac users with $130.
      • You can do it with Outlook via message rules in two seconds also.
      • Or you can do this for free with pine. I have a half way step. Anything that ends up in my inbox from someone in my addressbook gets colored purple. But I could have it take everything else and dump it in the spam folder.

        I'm sure you could do this with procmail too if you wanted.
    • I recently almost junked mail from a friend I hadn't heard from in over a year (and didn't have an e-mail address for!), simply because of the subject line. I usually look at the subject lines to select mail for the Junk button (OS X Mail), then check the already junk marked mails. Fortunately that time I looked at the From column and paused long enough to recognize the name. (It also helped that "G'day, $NAME" isn't a common subject line for spammers, who now prefer putt1ng l0ts 0f c-rap in subjact lina
  • With a sample size that small, I'm amazed they got any information from that study.
    • 2,200 users and 30% isn't that small. Anyway, the sample size was increased with some herbal viagra.

      I think the poster may have confused the 30% response rate to the study itself with the response rate to spam. Unless s/he was clever and considered the survey to be spam.

    • huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thentil (678858) <thentilNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:46AM (#7290406)
      Am I reading the same report?

      For this report, we collected original data from two sources. The first was a national telephone survey of 2,200 adults, including 1,380 Internet users that we conducted during June 2003. The second was a compilation of more than 4,000 first-person narratives about spam that were solicited since September 2002 by the Telecommunications Research & Action Center (TRAC), a national consumer group.

      It's been a while since college statistics, but I thought that in general, once you got to a sample size of 400, your results weren't going to get much better...??
    • by alexre1 (662339) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:49AM (#7290448)
      Unfortunately, most media companies don't care about the statistical validity of their surveys; they only care about how interesting the survey will seem to their readers. One of the newspapers in my city (Toronto) ran a huge university ranking story last week, based on student reviews. The funny thing was that two of the universities in the top-10 ranking for medical schools didn't actually HAVE medical schools.

      Awhell :) What can you do. Aside from complaining on Slashdot, of course.
      • That is indeed true.

        However, this particluar survey was by a highly reputable non-profit organisation with a long history of well regarded Internet surveys.

        And their sample size was large.

        The fact that the complete report is available free on the web should indicate something...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      No longer do you have to be rediculed because your sample size is too small! With our new, patented system you can increase your sample size GARANTEED! Just click here [slashdot.org] and impress those survey ladies at the mall with your new, bigger sample size!
    • Maybe they could have taken those pills that increase your size
    • You'd be amazed. In nyc, if you got 1000 (or is it 100) you can actually use that as a proper representation of the united states. It's so mixed here, it's not funny. Or so my psych professors tell me :)
    • Basically two things :
      From the report For this report, we collected original data from two sources. The first was a national telephone survey of 2,200 adults.
      I would think that there would be a correlation between people who answer surveys and people who answer spam

      And the other one is , as usual hyping the results (this is slashdot, so expected )
      The results were (from the report)
      7% of email users report that they have ordered a product or service that was offered in an unsolicited email, althoug
    • They obviously didn't answer the spam offering them a larger sample size...
  • by andih8u (639841) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:41AM (#7290335)
    an intelligent person who bought something off a spam. These are the same people who are getting herbal viagra while dreaming of a larger penis while writing up their resignation since they'll get so much money from that nice Nigerian man.

    • Barnum was right (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sjbe (173966)
      I've yet to meet an intelligent person who bought something off a spam.

      I've never seen anyone in the act of purchasing the National Enquirer either but obviously it must happen. Frequently.

      Not sure if that's funny or depressing...
    • I dont know what exactly you mean by "intelligent" person. But according to this [wired.com] article, even the manager of a 6 billion dollar mutual fund had placed orders for "penis enlargement pills".
  • sadly (Score:4, Funny)

    by 2MuchC0ffeeMan (201987) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:42AM (#7290343) Homepage
    until these numbers drop, spam will continue to push it's way into our email boxes...

    but, there is hope, you can only enlarge your penis so many times.
    • Re:sadly (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      yeah, i get those emails too. "Enlarge your penis 6 inches!" ... what am i going to do with a 7 inch penis?

      (sorry to the comedian i stole this from.)
    • Re:sadly (Score:3, Funny)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      If that's true, I'd better stop playing with it. One day, it just won't enlarge any more :(
  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:44AM (#7290374) Homepage Journal
    They're your friends, family and/or neighbors. In short, they are people who view a computer as merely a tool, not a hobby or profession. It would be interesting to run this every year and study trends. I expect that Joe & Mary Sixpack are becoming more aware of spam very quickly.
  • Senate Bill (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:45AM (#7290382) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully we'll soon be able to study the effects of legal measures on spammers [cnn.com]. :)
  • by pbranes (565105) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:45AM (#7290388)
    The Senate just approved an anti-spam bill 97-0 and the House is working on a similar bill (story here) [com.com]. Hopefully this will keep normal people from getting duped into buying the crap that floods our inboxes.

    I work as tech support at a university. It is my experience that most people actually read spam messages and then actively consider the promotion. I guess they are still naive to the ways of the internet and believe they are actually seeing a good deal sent to them. People always ask me about the "send your bank account info to nigeria" scam because they don't ever think that *they* could be the target of a scam. I'm afraid to think of what kinds of scams these people fall for in the real world if they believe everything they read on their computer screen.

    • The Senate just approved an anti-spam bill 97-0 and the House is working on a similar bill (story here). Hopefully this will keep normal people from getting duped into buying the crap that floods our inboxes.

      Very cool. I hope that they come up with anti-virus legislation soon - then we'll all be virus free! Seriously, there are so many other issues (such as international traffic, outsourcing to remote companies who use US servers but bounce mail through Uganda to China and back to the US...) how do you

      • how do you legislate that from inside a single country?

        The "Axis of Spam"? (That'll go down a treat when countries of a certain religious belief get put on it.) Besides, while most spam might appear to be originating from servers in the far east, the spammers and spamvertised sites almost always track back to the US and EU, in that order. Amsterdam seems to have recently become the Lagos away from home for the 419 scammers for example, and almost all the "herbal viagra" seems to be US. If the propose

    • Lets hope that they pass a good bill. Most of the bills so far have been crap. A good bill must have:
      • A requirement that people opt-in for the spam, or pre-existing relationship or explicit request.
      • A private right of action for individuals.
      • Statutory damages of at least $500 each, or $100 each if it was accidental, and attorney fees and costs.
      • Liability for the people who hire the spammer to advertise their products.

      People claimed that the courts would collapse from all the TCPA cases for junk faxes, but

      • A private right of action for individuals.

        I don't think this will fly. It sounds good, but the result will be a myriad of small cases that swamp the justice system and the only real winners will be the lawyers. Faxes are much more traceable, despite what telcos might like you to believe, and are tied to an address and therefore to a person much easier, making the TCPA a more effective deterrant. A much better way for spam might be to allow an offshoot of Government (FTC/FCC in the US, OFCOM in the UK

        • but the result will be a myriad of small cases that swamp the justice system and the only real winners will be the lawyers.

          Not true, there may be an increase in the short term, but then spammers will realize that they can't continue to spam and the case load will decrease. Washington and California state courts have not crashed because of spam cases.

          Government agencies tend to move slowly and pick the cases for people who donate to campaigns or cases that they want to use to make a point. Look at the EEO

    • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:03AM (#7290638) Homepage
      Exactly how would such a law be enforced? It's not as if these companies sending all this SPAM readily identify themselves. And what about SPAM originating from outside of the U.S.?

      I see this as more toothless-tiger feel-good legislation that politicians sign to get votes. I for one don't buy it for a second.

      • Exactly how would such a law be enforced? It's not as if these companies sending all this SPAM readily identify themselves. And what about SPAM originating from outside of the U.S.?

        The point is right now, the only way the government can go after spammers is if they are commiting fraud. And while a fair number of them are, others are not. The e-mail you get flaunting a new screensaver, cell phone, or home loan might be annoying, but it's not fraud if they deliver the product. Suppose you manage to catch

      • Well step 1 is pass anti-spam law. Step 3 is no spam, get it?

        Seriously tho, it will be encorced on a company by company basis. Big shops like AOL Earthlink, and whoever will pursue the big spammers, once they stop, they'll go after the smaller time ones and then the fear will settle in. Sure then spam will be forced overseas or whatever, but it will still be drastically reduced, because not just everyone is willing to go to the trouble of moving overseas.
        Spam is big pain for businesses, they're customer
  • by rsidd (6328)
    According to the article, "One-third of emailers have pursued an offer in an unsolicited email by clicking on a link to find further information." That is, at some point in their lives. Not the same email.

    The blurb reminds me of "Every five seconds, somewhere in the world, a woman is having a baby. Our job is to find that woman, and stop her." Par for slashdot, I suppose.

  • spamassassin.org (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirko (198274) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:47AM (#7290411) Journal
    My provider just installed it [spamassassin.org].
    Now, the spam comes with a modified subject (beginning with *****SPAM*****) and a report such as :
    SPAM: . : . . : . : . . Start SpamAssassin results . : . . : . : . .
    SPAM: This mail is probably spam. The original message has been altered
    SPAM: so you can recognise or block similar unwanted mail in future.
    SPAM: See http://spamassassin.org/tag/ for more details.
    SPAM:
    SPAM: Content analysis details: (6.4 hits, 3 required)
    SPAM: Hit! (2.7 points) Subject contains lots of white space
    SPAM: Hit! (3.7 points) BODY: Information on getting a larger penis
    SPAM:
    SPAM: . : . . : . : . . End of SpamAssassin results . : . . : . : . .


    Now, I'd suggest you ask your provider to install such a filter on his servers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:47AM (#7290415)

    Oxman's 15-year-old son, Robert, says five out of six e-mails he gets daily are spam, often including offers of pornography or dating services. Robert says he simply deletes them.

    Robert would neither comment on the delay between when he received the pornographic emails and when he deleted them, nor would he comment on his activities during that time.

  • Responses to Spam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by soluzar22 (219097) * <soluzar@hotmail.com> on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:48AM (#7290427)

    I've got my Dad well trained... he usually blocks anything that's not from a user in his address book, and deletes anything with an attatchment that he was not expecting. He's not exactly a techie, but he's a lot more savvy than a lot of non-technical internet users


    My mom on the other hand, still seems to believe that it's all personally directed at her, and that she should either respond, get angry/offended/whatever, just as if someone she knew in meatspace said/sent it to her. :-)


    She's learning, now, but quite often she looks at stuff like those banner ads saying "Speed up your internet connection..." or "You have won..." and she's just not worked out yet that it's all lies. The worst are those emails which claim it's a new critical update from Microsoft. It took ages to convince her that Bill's Boys don't send out neccesary updates through email.


    It's the folk who don't have a reality check in the form of a friendly techie around that I'm worried about. If not for me, my folks PC would be riddled with trojans, virii and other malicious software.



    -- Soluzar
  • It's math (Score:4, Funny)

    by K8Fan (37875) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:49AM (#7290452) Journal

    A few years ago I had a rather nasty realization; as 100 is the mean IQ, that means fully one half of the population has an IQ below 100.

    This realization has brought me peace. I'm no longer frustrated at the stupidity of the "average" person...they just can't help it.

    • by Steve B (42864)
      A few years ago I had a rather nasty realization; as 100 is the mean IQ, that means fully one half of the population has an IQ below 100.

      Except in Lake Wobegon.

    • *shock* You mean that half of people have an IQ in the bottom half of IQs??

      I think you might be in there...
    • Re:It's math (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hoplite3 (671379)

      No! Holy crap! How many times do I have to tell people that simply because the mean is 100, that doesn't mean half the people are below it.

      For example, a test is given to 4 people who scores are 5, 90, 95, 100. The average (mean) score is 72.5, but three of the four people are "above average".

    • by lysander (31017)
      Or, in tagline form:

      "It's people like you that make people like me above average."

      :)

    • Re:It's math (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GreyPoopon (411036)
      A few years ago I had a rather nasty realization; as 100 is the mean IQ, that means fully one half of the population has an IQ below 100.

      It may not be that bad. You're confusing "mean" with "median." The arithmetic mean is obtained by summing all of the values and then dividing by the count of the values you summed. The median is obtained by choosing the middle value in a ranked list. If the mean IQ is 100, there could be many people at or slightly above this value with only a few who are significantl

    • That is *NOT* math, that is statistics. Please never mix those two up again!
    • by sco08y (615665) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:10AM (#7290730)
      A few years ago I had a rather nasty realization; as 100 is the mean IQ, that means fully one half of the population has an IQ below 100.

      But that doesn't explain where you found 3 people who would moderate that as "Insightful."
    • ...which you obviously failed. If the median IQ was 100 that would mean that half of the population is below 100 (or right at it). However given that it's the mean then 99% could have an IQ of 102 and have just have 1% below 100. Not that statistical analysis of IQs really has any significance...
    • 100 is the mean IQ

      Actually, the mean is around 120. Either this is because the tests don't work properly, or it has increased since the tests were devised. In any case the vast majority of people are between 110 and 130. Not that IQ is as good a measure of intelligence as some people would suggest...

    • Re:It's math (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Strange Ranger (454494) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:25AM (#7290917)
      A sense of peace? Please share how you arrived there?

      That little realization is really scary to me. I don't FEEL above average. Actually I feel I could be a hell of a lot smarter. My IQ is above 150, and I'm well educated. (It's not bragging from an "anonymous handle" is it?) Yet I feel dumb often.

      Which makes me feel fairly hopeless to think about your 'realization'. There are many people under 100, marginally educated, who are: driving, voting, holding office, raising children, listening to Rush Limbaugh, purchasing firearms... OMG !! If I sometimes wonder if I'm properly qualified to do all those things...

      Not to mention the loneliness.

      Excuse me now I have to go purchase a small island and fortify it.
      • Re:It's math (Score:4, Insightful)

        by K8Fan (37875) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @12:24PM (#7291559) Journal
        A sense of peace? Please share how you arrived there.

        When I assumed that "most" people were reasonably intelligent, I would get frustrated, angry and depressed at how stupid the "average" person could be. Now it no longer bothers me. Oh, of course individual acts of stupidity can be annoying, but the general stupidity of the masses is no longer unexpected, and therefore no longer frustrating.

        That little realization is really scary to me. I don't FEEL above average. Actually I feel I could be a hell of a lot smarter. My IQ is above 150, and I'm well educated. (It's not bragging from an "anonymous handle" is it?) Yet I feel dumb often.

        "Feeling dumb" is a sign of intelligence. Actual dumb people usually feel they are smarter than they are. Limbaugh listeners, for instance, feel they are more well-informed about news than average. When tested, they prove to be less well-informed than average.

        Note: I had originally typed "median", and replaced it with "mean". I knew that it was a Gaussian distribution and that the mean and median in this case were the same. But I also knew that, this being Slashdot, there would be a dozen people to "correct" me no matter which one I used.

  • Effect on me? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Tyro (247333) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:49AM (#7290458)
    I'm rolling my own.

    I'm setting up my own Email server (yes, paid the extra bucks to get a business broadband account), complete with filters, attachment blocking, etc. Even purchased and read a couple of books on the subject... it's proven to be quite an educational endeavor.

    When my kids are old enough to use Email (pretty soon now), I want to provide them with something at least partially filtered by dear old dad... I' ve even saved about 2000 spam emails to help train the filters. I don't want to have the birds-and-the-bees conversation with my kids any earlier than I have to (and explaining some midgets-in-leather porno spam is NOT on my preferred activities list).

    Doing something is so much better than just bitching, and so much more satisfying.
    • Re:Effect on me? (Score:3, Informative)

      by bigberk (547360)

      I'm setting up my own Email server (yes, paid the extra bucks to get a business broadband account), complete with filters, attachment blocking, etc. Even purchased and read a couple of books on the subject... it's proven to be quite an educational endeavor.

      Congrats! My Internet experience also 'opened up' when I took control of my own communications, instead of letting my ISP provide their own brand of crappy, buggy email service.

      I have some recommendations for you. First, look into using postfix [postfix.org] as y

    • I have (as do many) a domain. it's a .info strangely, it gets NO spam... (suddenly that changes) with unlimited aliasing, a dictionary spam to my server would kill me, but with unlimited aliasing, every domain and every compan gets an email with it's name it it, to my domain. circuitcity.com uses circuitcitycom@mydomain.info the local store got circuitcityac@mydomain.info (I live near atlantic city nj) it's great to see who's selling my email it's also easy to remember my email address for each domain t
    • Re:Effect on me? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Uerige (206572)
      You think that your kids are in the right age for email (= the internet), but they still don't know about sex? I'm probably never going to understand you americans.
  • it's not simple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RMH101 (636144) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:50AM (#7290461)
    There are always going to be people new to email who are not going to have our level of cynicism about people offering us stuff via email.

    Take my Dad, for example. He's happy keeping in touch with his operatic society via their mailing list, and using email - you forget how big a "Wow!" moment you had when you first got your head around the whole idea of free global communications - but he's still printing out the latest "MS Security Patch" fakes and asking me if he needs to do anything with them.
    He also keeps asking if there's anything I can do to stop the semi-porn spam - and other than the usual precautions, the answer is still "not really".
    It may be natural to us old pros to just hit delete, but to people new to the technology it's not that straightforward.
    People think it's polite to mail back saying "actually, I don't want this mail" rather than LARTing them to the ISP, looking up their address from WHOIS, burning down their house and sowing the ground with salt like we do (it's not just me doing this, is it?
    Basically, there are always going to be enough people making enough mistakes whilst learning to keep spammers happy...

    Mind you, anyone who buys a Penis Patch probably deserves all they get!

    • Re:it's not simple (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ReelOddeeo (115880) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:20AM (#7290853)
      [my dad]...also keeps asking if there's anything I can do to stop the semi-porn spam - and other than the usual precautions, the answer is still "not really".

      Yes you can! Easily!

      Get Mozilla. Use it as your e-mail client. It can either POP or IMAP. It has bayesian filtering. Just start training it, and your spam will be filtered. It doesn't save your bandwidth, but it does save your time.

      I was talking with someone just yesterday evening. She is not a geek. She does use Mozilla for both browsing and e-mail as I recommended. She was raving about how she never gets popups, and hardly ever sees any spam. Her boyfriend gets tons of both. (Again a non-geek.) She keeps recommending that he get Mozilla. He thinks it is too much trouble to download it and run Setup.exe.

      It is the easiest thing to do for a Windows user.

      It is very sensible. Switch from a corporate-friendly e-mail client that can't filter, and a corporate-friendly browser to a user-friendly one of each. Mozilla's agenda is different. It is open-source, which is automatically user-oriented rather than vendor-oriented. Mozilla is never going to have the internal conflict whether they are being "too" harsh about filtering out vendor's potential advertising.

      It just astounds me that so many Windows users complain about both pop-ups and about spam, when it is so amazingly easy to get rid of both in one fell swoop. Truly amazing.
  • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:51AM (#7290474)
    this report says that 33% of users have "clicked on a link" in order to find out more, sometime in their lives, and 7% of users have ordered something from a spam message at some point. (At least I interpreted the blurb to mean that some spam had a 7% return rate -- that's not the case.) I don't think that these numbers are really all that surprising. For a beginning internet user, spam may seem like no more than commercials on TV. It shouldn't be surprising that occasionally people get interested.

    Much more interesting would be a survey of the last time they responded or bought something from spam, versus how long they have been using e-mail. You could draw more conclusions from that.
  • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:52AM (#7290490)
    You can not get around this fact: the average person is of average intelligence. Most of us know a lot about how to 'properly' use computers because this is either our hobby or job. But the average person has no idea. Our secretaries at work, for instance, haven't a clue about anything beyond click, type, drag.

    Then there's just plain stupid people, who think that an anonymous advertisement in their email, with spelling mistakes, lots of exclamation marks, and garbage writing warrants a legitimate product or service. A fool and their money...

    So you'll either have to require better training for all computer users, which probably won't happen. Or you'll have to revise the types of software that laypeople use to protect them from the world.
  • Confusing clients (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:56AM (#7290542)
    Our company maintains web sites for a number of clients. We frequently get clients forwarding us spam that they have received, saying things like "your web site is not optimized for search engines", "why aren't you in this great directory...?", "your web site would recieve a lot more visitors if...", asking us what we should do about it.

    It can be a bit annoying, because of course clients don't understand these things are just spam sent out in their thousands, and think they are from real people criticising their web sites. Of course the standard Slashdot response is to laugh at such people for being dumb, but often this type of spam is created in a deliberately deceptive way to make it look as if it is from a real person.
  • Newbies (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @10:58AM (#7290579) Homepage
    Although the great internet boom of the late 90's is over, many newbies enter the Internet every day. These people have never used e-mail or browsers before and have no idea about what (not) to do on the 'net. I think these are the people that reply to spam, leave their names, adresses, crdit card numbers and what not everywhere and are in general the most vulnerable group on the 'net. Educating these people will not always work (as in real life), so there will always be people that reply to spam etc., and therefore sending spam will continue to be profitable.
    • Re:Newbies (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:07AM (#7290693)
      Educating these people will not always work (as in real life)

      This whole issue goes hand in hand with security, and software design. The onus is on the software developers.

      Software that laypeople use should be designed to protect them from the real world (geeks use what they wish). And no, Microsoft software is not appropriate for the lay person: it requires frequent security updates, has too many complicated features that users misunderstand or misuse, has too many bells and whistles in Outlook etc. that introduce unnecessary security risks. There's no reason for script support in emails. I stip all my HTML mail to plaintext and have not missed a single word of meaning.

      I have started looking at laypeople with Internet connections as very real risks to the digital world. If you consider this statement overblown, then consider the most serious network attacks to date. Almost all of them have used unsecured machines to launch attacks, or spam. And you must also realized that it is because of these unsecured hosts that plague most of the Internet that ISPs are forced to use increasingly restrictive filtering: they filter dangerous ports and drop mail from suspect IPs. Both of these are of huge detriment to all of our Internet experience.

  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:00AM (#7290590) Homepage Journal
    I never know what I might find,
    on any day I go online.
    I used to get in quite a huff,
    while wading through unwanted stuff.
    But then I changed the man I am,
    the day I answered all my spam.

    Now every time I check my box,
    I load up on fantastic stocks.
    I'll gladly say I felt no loss,
    when, with a smile, I fired my boss.
    With just one click, the best thing yet,
    I freed myself of all my debt.

    I have, paying a few small fees,
    ten university degrees.
    Now that I'm losing all this weight,
    I'm sure, someday, I'll get a date.
    Instead of going to a show,
    I spy on everyone I know.
    (That's easy, since I have in hand,
    this nifty wireless video cam.)

    I spend my evenings viewing screens,
    of barely legal horny teens.
    And with a little credit charge,
    Whoopee! My penis was enlarged!
    Meanwhile these shots of Britney Spears
    should be enough to last for years.

    And so I lead this online life,
    my monitor is now my wife.
    It has become my greatest dream,
    to launch my own get-rich-quick scheme.
    And if you think you might get missed,
    relax, you're on my e-mail list.

    SATIREWIRE'S 2ND ANNUAL POETRY SPAM
    2001 FREESTYLE WINNER:
    "I Answered All My Spam"
    by Alex Silbajoris, Columbus, Ohio
    http://www.satirewire.com/features/poetry_sp am/01f ree_winner.shtml
  • Phone Survay ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SomethingOrOther (521702) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:01AM (#7290609) Homepage

    The report is based on a randomized, national phone survey of 2,200 adults.

    Now, I wonder why a survay carried out in this manner recorded an unusually high number of people responding to spam?

    Maybe a truer responce would have been acheved if every time someone told them to fuck off and slammed the phone down they treated this as an 'I dont respond to spam' reply
    • Actually this can be handled.

      You separate into groups; the response group R, and the "Fuck off" group F. Say that F is 1000 people or so; you now take a subsample of F, say 20 people, and you harass them at all hours of the day until they give you a straight answer. You then assume that the 20 people you randomly chose to harass in this manner are representative of the entire 1000, and multiply the ratio accordingly.

      Of course, most surveyors don't have the nerve to do the statistical analysis properly

  • nailing the bastards (Score:2, Informative)

    by tarzan353 (246515)
    It's not that hard to take down a spammer who causes you problems beyond just sending you unwanted email... I had one friend who had a spammer run a couple hundred thousand emails thru his system (a bug had made it into an open relay). It took one stern call to the ISP hosting the advertised websites to get his hosting and DNS cut off at the knees.

    This is more than just sending off a single email to a scantly watched abuse email.. This means getting hold of a real person and explaining, re

  • 54% of personal email users receive 10 or fewer emails on a typical day; 10% handle more than 50.

    You lucky lucky people. Guess I'm in the top 1% with 120 a day.

    Email is useless for me these days. Even with filtering 95% of the mail it is still useless. I get one email a week from The Old Man and authorisation emails from forums.

    Thanks you dirty spammers.

  • What if? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by JamesP (688957)
    I have this really crazy idea about how to kill spam: Prosecute people who buy from spam services...

    I mean, it's the same thing with drugs: you prosecute those who sell, and those who consume.

    If law enforcement starts sending bogus spam and getting those who respond, fewer people will respond, thus killing the profitability of it.

  • A few months ago I just quit using email. It just isn't worth my time to sort through all that junk. I just tell people to icq me or don't contact me at all. It really sucks but if that is what has to be done then so be it.
  • The report is based on a randomized, national phone survey of 2,200 adults
    Anybody else find this mildly amusing that they'd use telemarketing to do spam study?
  • We're doomed.

    Think of it this way:


    About a third of people responded to a spam, seeking more information.

    And 7 percent actually bought a product or service


    A spammer would read this as:


    A STUPENDOUS, UNHEARD-OF 33% of people responded to a spam, ATTEMPTING TO BUY SOMETHING!!!

    And A SPECTACULAR **7 PERCENT** actually bought a product or service, compared to the measly .01% response rate to television advertising, which is stupidly expensive, and tangled with all kinds of "decency" regulations, like t
  • They Obviously Do (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LuYu (519260) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @11:51AM (#7291248) Homepage Journal

    They can have my Spam if they want it
    If that figure of 1/3 of people is correct, that obviously means they want it, and they might buy something if they got it.

    I guess we should stop trying to make laws to stop spam. If it were something like 5% of responded to a spam message and 0.01% actually bought something, I could see the argument for illegalizing it. However, a figure this high suggests that people actually want these offers (I haven't a clue why, either, so don't ask).

    Maybe this is better as I would much rather have spam than DRM, and it appears spam has been used as one of the arguments in favor of locking down the Net.

    I would rather suffer the inconvenience of freedom than the frustrated meaninglessness of life under tyranny.

  • by torgosan (141603) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @01:03PM (#7292066) Homepage
    Sure, spam sucks and spammers should be castrated [or worse] but at least one person is having the last laugh at the spammers: http://www.thespamletters.com [thespamletters.com]
  • by reallocate (142797) on Thursday October 23, 2003 @02:22PM (#7293042)
    The article says people are more annoyed with spam than door-to-door salespeople knocking on their front door. Or even unsolicited phone calls.

    OK. People would rather put up with some poor yammering sod than hit "delete"?

    Makes little sense to me.

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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