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Security Predictions of 2004 326

Posted by michael
from the looking-forward dept.
scubacuda writes "Computer World's security predictions for 2004: R.a..n,d,o.,m p,u,,n,c.t,,u_a.t.1..0.n evading spam filters, Internet access filtering, better desktop management, enterprise personal firewall deployment, tools that securely scrub metadata, corporate policies against USB flash drives, Wi-Fi break-ins, Bluetooth abuses, cell phone hacking, centralized control over IM, public utility breakin publicized, government defense against cybercriminals, organized cybercrime, and a shorter time to exploitation."
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Security Predictions of 2004

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  • Nearly impossible? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by n0nsensical (633430) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:06AM (#7879536)
    R.a..n,d,o.,m p,u,,n,c.t,,u_a.t.1..0.n makes it nearly impossible to block spam messages by filtering keywords.

    Can't the spam filters just remove it all? They don't really need the punctuation to check for Viagra advertisements anyway.
    • My filter just checked for excessive punctuation.

      \w[();\[\]:]\w
    • I agree - We chatted about something similar in our office the other day.

      If the spelling and grammar of the email were to be checked and weighted as part of the filtering process you'd get around a lot of the deliberate misspelling of words.

      • by Uggy (99326)

        ispell -l < some_email

        gives you a list of the misspelled word. You could fiddle with the capitalization rules for things like DNS, DHCP, TCP/IP etc. to lower your false positives.

        We could wrap that into spamd and generate a weighted score. Problems would be speed of course as ispell would have to start up each time to check an email (is there a daemon mode for ispell or aspell?)

        Anyway, I ran it on a bunch of aforementioned spam and it gives convincing results.

        Of course, slashdotters would pr

    • by wiggys (621350) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:17AM (#7879569)
      I already get some spam with random puncutation yet PopFile still manages to classify it as spam.

      Why? Because it knows which combination of words, used together make it more likely the mails are for me, eg spammers only have my email address, they do not know my name... therefore any emails containing either my first name or surname (or better still, both together, will make PopFile flag the message up as "high probability non-spam mail". Of course it looks for other clues.

      Anyway, if spammers do find a way to circumvent my filters (and at the moment I'm filtering spam with 99.62% accuracy) then my filtering software will be updated and will check for stupid punctuation tricks.
      • They found way through Bayesian filters. I'm getting more and more spam filled with innocent english words in one of the MIME multipart emails. Those word decreases possibility of classifing email as spam, because normal, not-spam emails also contains them.
        Training Bayesian filters to classify those spams with normal words increases possibility of false-positives (normal email treated as spam), which is more annoying than spam itself.
        • by mengel (13619)
          We just need to fix our Bayesian fitlers; to wit
          • count runs of punctuation as tokens
          • run a normal pass, then
          • de-html-tag the text
          • map "w,.o..r!#d_=s" into "words" (de-punctuate)
          • run a second pass
          • use individual words *and* pairs of adjacent words in the statistics database
          Then we'll get even better filtering, and foil about 90% of the current techniques.

          Of course, then the spammers will start poking around for new techniques... But these are really easy to fix.

    • by stevey (64018)

      My solution to the punctuation and l33t-speak type spams is simply to run the incoming message through a spell checker.

      Whilst lots of people make typos and use words not in my dictionary it does become obvious when the spelt-wrong/spelt-correctly ratio is high that it's likely spam.

    • I don't get it, won't this chaos make it hard to read the spam, and therefore from the point of view of the spammer, it would be a bad idea to do, because their message won't get through? Only idiots would buy something offered by spam, and if they can't/don't want to spend time to read it, poof, 0% profitability.

      At this point the spam would turn from something that's useful for at least one party (the seller/spammer) to something that's just junk floating around on the internet.
      • by Ewan (5533)
        No, because in another part of the same email they have an image embedded which contains the real spam message - outlook express users (the huge majority) see the image not the text.

        Ewan
    • by Jjeff1 (636051)
      Folks looking for a decent spam filter should check out ASSP [sourceforge.net]. It's a SMTP proxy written in perl. I've got it up and running on my MS Exchange server, but apparently it supports virtually any platform that supports Perl. It has a good web based interface that makes configuration a snap.
    • by borisbfurry (738057) on Monday January 05, 2004 @11:04AM (#7880891)
      I got a random punctuation spam the other day. One line read like this: Guar,anteed 1.00% effecti;ve! Needless to say, my confidence in the product was not very high
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:06AM (#7879537) Journal
    This is a good thing. It makes it harder for the victims to read, and gives a lot of anomolies that any modern statistical filter will find extremely useful.
  • by dorward (129628) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:08AM (#7879544) Homepage Journal
    OK... so they predict...

    More Of The Same!

    Astounding.

    Remind you of something [slashdot.org]?.
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:12AM (#7879550) Homepage
    That random punctuation stuff is more difficult to read than 1337speak, and will continue to be: leetspeak, at least, has a fairly broad group of people that -want- to understand it and use it conversationally, and thus its more understood.

    At any rate, I doubt such punctuation will be a problem. I've already seen a good deal of it get killed with bayesian filters anyway.

    The other things though - very interesting. It's not like we can't predict these things ourselves, though - it's only a mattre of time before they happen, what with the increasingly dense levels of tech in our society.

    Being the thrill-seeking geek that I am, the prospect alone of bluetooth hacking (wartoothing? :P) sends an adrenaline rush through me. I look forward to dealing with such attacks (either preventatively, directly, or for clients, etc.) - seriously. It's exciting stuff.

    I can see there being a definate increase in the need for serious, intelligent, and knowledgeable computer security staff; they'll likely start supplanting what's left of IT staff, as well as replacing some of the positions that were dumped in the last several years. After IS? Who knows. Maybe we'll be batteries by then, or maybe fighting the machines.
  • by dorward (129628) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:15AM (#7879558) Homepage Journal
    Spam operators are getting more creative in their efforts to get around spam filters. R.a..n,d,o.,m p,u,,n,c.t,,u_a.t.1..0.n makes it nearly impossible to block spam messages by filtering keywords.

    It doesn't take very much CPU to s/\W//g

    Operators are changing to graphics interchange format images with no searchable text.

    Yeah! Block all email containing only graphics!

    Some spammers send in encoded formats, like Base64, to circumvent keyword filters altogether,

    Base64 isn't hard to decode... or to just bin.

    and relay through IP addresses that have no Domain Name System domains associated with them.

    I've never seen an email with an IP address based URI that wasn't spam. Trash em

    These recent developments are challenging spam-filter vendors and frustrating users.

    Not this user, or this user's spam filter [mirror.ac.uk]. Spams using these techniques get the highest spam scores and when 5 is worthy of trashing, 35 is worthy of laughing at (at least until I get so much spam I'll put it in /dev/null rather then ~/mail/spam)

    • It doesn't take very much CPU to s/\W//g

      Yes, but it takes rather more to convert | to i, @ to a, and all the other possible replacements. It's not impossible, but removing punctuation is only part of the battle.

      Your whole post makes it sound like it's easy. If it were easy, we would stop a lot more spam. As it happens, it's difficult. Spammers are always going to keep ahead of the curve if they can, and as long as they're making money, they will continue to increase volume and keep on banging server CPU

      • by dorward (129628) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:00AM (#7879692) Homepage Journal
        Your whole post makes it sound like it's easy. If it were easy, we would stop a lot more spam.

        In my experience, it is. I can't remember the last time I got a false positive or negative, and I haven't even bothered training the bayesian filter.

        Maybe I just get targetted by clueless spammers, but spam is not a major problem for me.

        Spammers are always going to keep ahead of the curve if they can, and as long as they're making money, they will continue to increase volume

        Spammers make money becuase most people don't run spam filters, and some people are clueless enough to do what the spammer wants.

        While the spam might be increasing, I don't see it until I go and look in my spamtrap Maildir, and I don't expect that to change any time soon.

      • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Monday January 05, 2004 @08:02AM (#7879865) Homepage
        But that's not needed.

        To a Bayesian filter such "cleverness" is even more damning than just stating plain-out what you want to say.

        Probably my legitimate mail *seldom* talks about "viagra" or "refinancing", but the rarity of those words in my mail is nothing agains the unlikeliness that I'd write "v1@gr@" or "r3f|n@nc|ng".

        In other words, such clever tricks migth work. Once.

    • by the uNF cola (657200) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:00AM (#7879694)

      It doesn't take very much CPU to s/\W//g

      tr/\W//d is faster if that's perl :)
    • by Jugalator (259273) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:20AM (#7879758) Journal
      According to SpamAssassin's default scores [mirror.ac.uk], these are all adding up to the spam score that apply to the examples above to "challenge spam filters":

      - Message text disguised using base64 encoding
      - Uses a numeric IP address in URL
      - Uses a dotted-decimal IP address in URL
      - HTML has over 9 kilopixels of images
      - HTML: images with 0-200 bytes of words
      - HTML has a low ratio of text to image area
      - The score from a bayesian filter, which would probably quickly increase for messages with tons of punctuation and still leave legit mail since you normally don't use tons of punctuation.

      Spam operators might get more creative, but I still think spam removal tools are several steps ahead.
  • by arvindn (542080) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:16AM (#7879562) Homepage Journal
    Stop spam at the source, stupid!

    Don't put your email address online, period. Other solutions like filters only address part of the problem, because you still have to pay for the bandwidth and there's the problem of false positives. I wrote a little Javascript Turing email obfuscator [ernet.in], which prevents renders your email address invisible to bots, even those that can execute javascript.

    An ounce of prevention...

    • by wiggys (621350) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:20AM (#7879577)
      >Don't put your email address online, period

      That's like saying "Don't go out after 9pm or you deserve to get beaten/raped".

      Sorry, but my instincts are to fight the spamming bastards rather than give in to them.
      • Bad analogy.

        I never said anything about not fighting spammers. Please do fight them. But at the same time, also protect yourself. What you're saying is more like: "I'll go out at night alone and unarmed and I'll fight if I'm attacked." I'm just saying take a gun with you.

        Not putting your email online doesn't mean not giving it out at all. It just means don't put it in nice cleartext which spambots can harvest. Obfuscate it so that humans can still gets it while bots can't.

      • It's not, really. My email address is not available online, but I'm still quite contactable via email - I have a perlscript (with the To: email hardcoded in and some sanity checking on the inputs) that allows people to email me without ever seeing the address.
        • Good idea, but...

          Google for "blog spam". There are bots going around looking for Submit links in the most popular blogs and spamming them. Its probably only a matter of time before they extend that to the whole of the web.

    • by dorward (129628) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:29AM (#7879601) Homepage Journal
      Don't put your email address online, period. Other solutions like filters only address part of the problem, because you still have to pay for the bandwidth and there's the problem of false positives. I wrote a little Javascript Turing email obfuscator, which prevents renders your email address invisible to bots, even those that can execute javascript.

      It comes down to a choice:

      • Get less spam
      • Make it harder for people to contact you

      I don't want to put barriers in people's ways when they wish to contact me (OK, sometimes I do - 'No I will not fix your computer! I don't even know you!' - but generally I don't). Making people use a JavaScript enabled web browser AND answer a question is a barrier, and I don't want it.

      • Of course, its your choice.

        You may want to consider two things though:

        • Spam continues to increase exponentially with no sign of slowing down. If you let them get your email now you'll regret it months, even years later.
        • The time to type a word into a textbox is nothing compared to writing an email. So that's not really a barrier. Javascript is though.
    • by kop (122772) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:36AM (#7879626)
      Stop spam at the source, stupid!

      Don't use your email address, period. Other solutions like filters only address part of the problem, I wrote a little Javascript Turing email blocker , which prevents you using email!
      No more email means no more spam, spam harvesters use viruses that collect email adresses from the computers of people that know you.
      People that don't know how to use bcc spread your adress all over the net. So dont give out your email adress at all. Just send lonely test messages to yourself. mmm, a dictionary attack could still find you..... Stop checking your email!!!
      Problem solved.

      An ounce of prevention...
      • Wow, don't you even read the posts that you reply to? I know this is slashdot, but still...

        I was talking about making your email address invisible to bots, not humans.

        Wait.. maybe you're a bot? Yes, that would explain everything.

    • If your Turing email protection scheme actualy worked, it would be easy to defeat. Spammers could harvest the XOR of the email, and use a dictionary attack.
      • You mean try all possible dictionary words to hit a single address? Yeah I'm sure spammers are desperate to do that.

        What usually happens in a dictionary attack is you try a whole dictionary and get several thousand hits. That doesn't work here.

        • not a "single" address. thousands of it.

          1- aim a large provider (sympatico.ca, uol.com.br, aol.com, and so on)
          2- do a dictionary atack and log every address that responds "250".
          3- build a spam list
          4- sell it on CD
          5- ...
          6- profit

          if it looks too professional and organized for a spammer i have bad news: they ARE getting professional and organized. even low-live scums like spammer can pull this out. mafia does. why can't spammers ?
        • They don't need to try every dictionary word, they would only need to try ones that would be answers to obvious questions.
    • by azaris (699901) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:10AM (#7879723) Journal

      I wrote a little Javascript Turing email obfuscator, which prevents renders your email address invisible to bots, even those that can execute javascript.

      That only works for people who think that sending you e-mail is such an enormous honor that they're willing to jump through flaming hoops backwards to accomplish it. The first spammer that's desperate enough to "decrypt" your e-mail address will add it to an address list and that's the end of that chapter.

      Ever notice how entities that erect all sorts of extraneous barriers to communicating with them tend to get your blood boiling? I call it the "you must fax us this form in triplicate with a notarized form and a copy of your driver's license during office hours in Burma on the third tuesday of April during a leap year that doesn't have the number six in it"-syndrome.

    • "Don't put your email address online, period."

      Doesn't help you with a brute force or dictionary attack. Those are popular these days.
    • My e-mail address came out as "undefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefined" in Konqueror. I guess you can't get much more obfuscated than that!

      Anyway, not every client has JavaScript enabled. That's why I wrote something server-side: SpamJavelin [adyx.co.uk] - it puts trace digits into your virtually-hosted {anything_you_like_before_the_at_sign@mypatch.myis p.co.uk} e-mail address to indicate where and when it was picked up. You then know the IP address used by whoever found your email address {and the time o
      • My e-mail address came out as "undefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefined" in Konqueror.

        You might have entered an empty string as one of the values?

        Your javelin idea sounds pretty good, but what happens when spammers eventually get a thousand addresses from your domain, so your bandwidth multiplies thousandfold? (though you block all of it). If you're using a free online email service rather than your own server you're fine I guess :)

  • by Zog The Undeniable (632031) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:16AM (#7879564)
    My experince since we changed from Windows 3.1 to NT and now 2000 is that the few cases where users screwed up their PCs have been outweighed by the constant demands for an engineer visit to carry out a trivial task using the admin password. And no-one can defrag their hard disks. Ever.
    • by pe1chl (90186)
      That means you (or the admins) have not yet fully understood how they can manage desktop systems.
      This is understandable. There is a lot to read.
      But in the end it will be possible to protect the systems against the user (somewhat) and still be able to manage them, even defragment.

      So keep on studying!
      • That means you (or the admins) have not yet fully understood how they can manage desktop systems.

        This is understandable. There is a lot to read.

        But in the end it will be possible to protect the systems against the user (somewhat) and still be able to manage them, even defragment.

        So keep on studying!

        And I thought the main selling point of Windows was that it was easy enough that any baboon could install/user/administer it. If that is not actually true, wouldn't it make more sense to just install Linu

        • I fully agree: it is not at all true that Windows is easier to administer than Linux.
          Usually, when folks claim the contrary they then come up with issues like those in the parent article.

          I.e. they think it is simple, but that is only because they have not yet discovered the complexity. Kind of like considering a Mars rover simple because it is just a bouncing ball that unfolds and releases a radio controlled car that drives around.
        • by danheskett (178529) <{danheskett} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:03AM (#7879701)
          And I thought the main selling point of Windows was that it was easy enough that any baboon could install/user/administer it.
          It is massively easy to admin a large number of similiar Windows machines.

          As a part time thing, for charity, I admin a largish network for a non-profit in New England. Something like ~150 desktop PCs - running Win2k and WinXP and 3 Win2k Servers.

          I do it all remotely, in about ~45 minutes or so weekly. When they need a new PC they get it straight from Dell, plug it in, and after a very simple operation (which, granted, required me writing out detailed instructions with pictures and lots of hand-holding), the PC is in the network. After a quick reboot, all the software is configured, printers configured, network access configured, and any of the 175 users can log in and experience the same consistent environment.

          Patching machines is virtually painless, virus/trojans/spyware never gets through, e-mail is rock-solid, machines don't crash unless it's a hardware failure (quite common with Dell sadly..), the machines are locked down and unable to be user-f'd, and things are generally smooth.

          They used to have a full-time fully-clueless IT guy. He went to a different career, and I took over a few years ago. After a single weekend of re-engineering I can say that the network operates without any trouble. The users are happy, things are reliable, all major maintenance is automated and scripted, and things *just work*.

          Honestly, it all depends on the person. I've known networks with really bad UNIX-ish admins where nothing working, machines, crashed non-stop, etc etc. Same with Windows.

          Don't mean to be immodest, but really, it just takes someone with a good grasp of IT and some Windows skills. My one power user on-site handles some of the hands-on stuff (unjamming printers, unpacking new PCs, changing backup tapes, etc).

          Anyways... in this case, Linux would work except for about ~6 or so critical apps that are Windows-only. Bummer.
  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:24AM (#7879586)
    I use a 2.5" 20GB USB hard drive when I move between branch offices for work as it carries all my data and stuff with me. I also use my HD as a kind of FTP directory when I want to install client software across a server network.

    Come to think of it, there's nothing to stop somebody with one of these Hard drives from importing and exporting several CDs worth of data on it, and importing all kinds of strange software or even CD-copying software into the workplace to make nice CD ISO images or even whole drive dumps of code that should not be freely distributed.

    The USB hard disk is probably way more risky than a flash drive, because 512MB while it can still hold a lot of info, is still expensive and is limited by its size.
    • The problem is, USB thumb drives are more wide-spread, cheap as chips and, from a security stand-point, easy to loose.

      Thankfully I havent lost any of my USB drives, I usually securely wipe them every few weeks JIC.

      512 MB is very damaging, what corporations are scared of, are the copying of sensitive documents. Documents such as network diagrams, disaster recovery plans, security plans etc etc are usually no larger than 10 megs, but could deliver a damaging blow to business confidentality concerns.

      I'm see
    • by scottj (7200) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:12AM (#7879732) Homepage Journal
      Come to think of it, there's nothing to stop somebody with one of these Hard drives
      Come to think of it, this is nothing that I could not have done several years ago with my 20GB laptop. These USB drives are not a new threat in an environment where mobile computing is prominent. Not ALL of us use desktops. In fact, I don't have a single coworker who uses a desktop computer these days.
  • by autopr0n (534291)
    Spam operators are getting more creative in their efforts to get around spam filters. R.a..n,d,o.,m p,u,,n,c.t,,u_a.t.1..0.n makes it nearly impossible to block spam messages by filtering keywords. Operators are changing to graphics interchange format images with no searchable text. Some spammers send in encoded formats, like Base64, to circumvent keyword filters altogether, and relay through IP addresses that have no Domain Name System domains associated with them.

    Why on earth did they expand "GIF" the
  • by quigonn (80360) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:26AM (#7879592) Homepage
    Spammers actually seem to try defeating bayesian spam filters by "training" them with random words:

    From: Noah Poe
    Date: Sun, 04 Jan 2004 15:58:49 -0600
    To: a.konrad@aon.at
    Subject: canberra happen

    aides bone emmanuel rumania persistent josephine pencil majesty bottom
    anarch molecular cafe hepburn done ellipsoid monoceros chokeberry pungent decontrolled
    orphanage keel cessna lippincott drugstore onion inclement empire

    This is just sick.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I've been getting a lot of these too, and I wonder how easy it is to create a filter that calculates the amount of short (say 4 characters) in a message. If there aren't enough of these (and note the difference between what you posted and this post for example) then it's very likely spam.

      And really, even if you use a Bayesian filter, how many emails contain the words "majesty" "ellipsoid" and "lippincott"? Is it really a problem to have these associated with spam? As long as you need a few of them to trig

      • > And really, even if you use a Bayesian filter, how many emails contain the words "majesty" "ellipsoid" and "lippincott"?

        Why, just yesterday I got one that said "Her Majesty wants you to polish the ellipsoid on her Lippincott, and then bring it around front."

    • Subject: fodder gallonage

      neglecter appease luis seagram bratwurst bluet
      burgundian seamstress adair embolden frontal
      rhodonite bitwise neither clara mercy footstool delivery

      or how about....

      Subject: dewdrop

      perspicuous dinosaur fluency depart colombia oaken balfour odometer
      because propel bead cowry nihilism
      melanesia down mccluskey cryostat elena alphameric

      ----

      I wondered what these emails were, but trying to poison spam filters seems correct. I figured spammers were doing it, but I thought the reason was j
    • by Texas Rose on Lava L (712928) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:52AM (#7879680) Homepage Journal
      I don't think this will work too well for the spammers. When was the last time you got a legitimate email containing "lippincott" or "monoceros" or "emmanuel?" The Bayesian filter will notice that words like this only show up in spam, and the next email you get with "lippincott" in it goes to the spam folder. This is particularly true if the spammers get lazy and reuse the same set of "random" words.

      As for spammers training your filter to accept spam, I think the spammers would have to be really sophisticated to pull that off. They would have to guess which words show up in your legitimate email but not in your spam. For my work email, for example, that would probably be things like technical jargon, coworkers' names, product names - stuff the spammers won't be able to guess (and that will vary from one person to the next). So even if spammers add random dictionary words to their spams, there will still be individual words that are far more common in legitimate email than they are in spam, and the spammers' plot will fail.
    • by arivanov (12034) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:06AM (#7879712) Homepage
      Fairly stupid and will not work. At least with SPAM assassin. It does Bayes on two word combinations (unless you change one of the defaults). So random words will not get into the bayes dictionary anyway.
    • Spammers send me volumes of dada poetry like this, and it's all stuff that appears before HTML, which I assume is the main content of the mail. Pity that I filter out HTML. And here I was hoping that there was an international dada poetry guerrilla group...
  • by MachDelta (704883) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:27AM (#7879596)
    Ok, this is probably a dumb question, but why the hell doesn't anyone make a spell checking spam filter? Just set it to junk any incoming email with more than x% spelling mistakes, and voila! All y,o.ur.,. r,a.,n.d,.om.,,. p,.u,.nc,.tu,at,i.on and |33t 5p34k is fucked. Combine it with a regular spam filter, and you're set!
    It'd also have the added bonus of keeping idiots who can't spell worth crap out of your inbox. And since it would work off a dictionary (preferably the same one as your outgoing spell checker, if equipped), you could always add whatever names, phrases, and abbreviations you wanted, while still keeping the "0MG L1EK MAK UR P3N0R 9 INCHZ LONGR!!" crap out of your inbox.
    Surely we have the ability to create something like this. So where is it?
  • by Richard W.M. Jones (591125) <rich.annexia@org> on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:31AM (#7879605) Homepage
    At my last job I wrote a chat server which was used by school age children.

    One of the requirements (coming from "concerned parents", of course) was to filter out swearing in the chat rooms. So if someone typed in, say, "you're a shit", what would actually appear for everyone else would be "you're a $!%^" or something similar.

    Eventually, of course, we got into an arms race with the kids, who would write "sh1t", "s.h.i.t", "sh*t" and so on.

    However, I came up with a program which generated a regexp which matched pretty much all the variations, and - to date - none of the kids have worked out a way around it.

    This is how it worked.

    (Actually, I can send anyone the original regexp generator code if they're interested - just mail me).

    The basic concept was to use a table of "equivalences", for, eg. "a" => [ "@", "4", "A", ....], "f" => [ "ph", .... ]

    For each swear word we generate a regexp with (r1|r2|r3|...) for each letter in the bad word, where r1, r2, r3, ... are the list of equivalences for that letter.

    That produces a list of swear word - matching regexps which we then combined into a super mega regexp which would match any of the 50 or so banned words.

    One interesting thing is that you can end up with a regexp which is too big for GNU regexp to handle ... But there are ways to get round that and you can code it up as a flex parser too which doesn't have any limits as far as I can tell.

    The actual code is slightly more complex and does a few more things than above (eg. it works for "s.h.1.t" too, or even "s---h--1----------t". And it has a concept of "obliterator characters", so "sh*t" can be banned also.

    If anyone's interested I can send the code.

    Rich.

  • Random punctuation (Score:4, Informative)

    by JanneM (7445) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:35AM (#7879620) Homepage
    Sure, you can defeat spam filters by being obscure enough. Do random punctuation, embed your message in a mass of unrelated words and so on. But from my experience, spam is already approaching the "vanishing point" when it ceases to be comprehensible even to the humans that are supposed to react to the things. I have had spam that has been so obscure it's taken me several minutes do decipher what they are trying to sell (and they still get caught by Spamassassin).

  • by _Shorty-dammit (555739) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:51AM (#7879672)
    there are more parts to an email than just the subject line or the message body that still give away emails as spam. So even if random punctuation circumvents the spotting of something as specific as "viagra" by changing it to "v..1.,a,g.r,,a" or something similar it doesn't matter much. There are so many other hints that it's basically meaningless to do this, they still get caught because of those other clues. I'm still amazed at how well my bayesian filter of choice, popfile http://sourceforge.net/projects/popfile does with all my email needs. Filtering out spam, sorting out other emails into work, family, and a handful of other 'buckets' to get everything going where I'd like it to go. Spammers are indeed trying out different ideas all the time, but next to nothing ever gets through. And when something does manage to slip by on a rare occasion, well, you just made popfile that much better at catching the rest of the crap anyways. shrug. Been a long time (since I found popfile) since spam was even the slightest concern to me. There are quite a few different bayesian-based filtering methods out there, definitely a good idea to check at least one of them out. Popfile's a good choice, especially if you'd like to sort things besides spam too.
    • Spammers have now begun to append a paragraph of normal text to spam messages.
      (there is a short message about losing weight, some link to a site, and then a long text that is not at all related to the spam)

      I suppose this is being done to fool the Bayesian filters.
  • Corporate IM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ksp (203038) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:51AM (#7879673) Homepage
    I used to work in a global virtual team for a software company and I was (once again) shocked at the ignorance of the MIS department. A lot of people just decided to use MSN Messenger and so it suddenly became our standard communication program, so far it was even written into work procedures.

    I expect the new IM worms to be the next major disaster to these tech companies, just like Slammer was for their unmanaged MS SQL installations.

    It surprised me that noone listened to my suggestions on setting up an internal server. OK, not every luser knows IRC, but surely there are many IMs that can be set up to use an internal server and block everything else at the firewall. We tried the Lotus Notes clone of AOLs AIM and it sucked (as everything Notes), apart from using encrypted line data.

    I remember trying to get hold of a senior developer I was working with using plain old talk in a terminal and he didn't know it... He got the notification in his shell and called me instead. Sort of explains the renaissance of these dummy IM clients.

  • by C0vardeAn0nim0 (232451) on Monday January 05, 2004 @06:59AM (#7879691) Journal
    My boss (hardcore BSD hacker and anti-spam activist) added a simple rule to our spam filters: more than 5 consonants in a row in the From: field and it's tagged as spam. I'm pretty sure if neccessary he can add a rulle to check how many characters in a sentence are vowels, consonants, digits and punctuation. more than x% of punctuation in a sentence plus y% digits and the filter tags as spam.

    I'm not as good as him but I'm sure this can be done quite easily in perl with regexes.
    • Unlikely.

      Short, broken, or oddly punctuated sentences, such as this, may wrongly trip the rule.

      There are 1,000,000s of examples, of which this is 1.

      Still, it's ugly English, so should perhaps be condemned as such and consigned to the spam-bin anyway.

      More serious is how to define a sentence - if it's a phrase terminated with a period, then random punctuation is likely to generate many short sentences, and a sufficiently dedicated spammer ought to be able to bias the 'random' punctuation to defeat a conserva

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:20AM (#7879756)


      > My boss (hardcore BSD hacker and anti-spam activist) added a simple rule to our spam filters: more than 5 consonants in a row in the From: field and it's tagged as spam.

      Hope he's not expecting any important messages from anyone born in Eastern Europe...

  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:01AM (#7879696)
    • More virii.
    • More arguments over whether 'virii' is a word.
  • by cnb (146606) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:15AM (#7879744)
    Anti SPAM tools already include anti-obfuscation support. Here's one [sandgnat.com] of many scripts for spamassassin.

    - cnb
  • as the OS gains mindshare, it will also gain it's first dedicated worm/virus. I hope I'm *not* right.
    • This prediction has been around a while. Mindshare has little to do with Mac OS X's attractiveness to hackers. The attraction is that it is a Unix box and it is very likely to have a user that has no idea that he/she has a Unix box in front of them. System security is at the mercy of Software Update's next scheduled run, and of course an update having been released by Apple by that run.
  • New email protocol? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BaconLT (555713)
    To battle spam, how about a new email protocol?

    Email, right now, is not very restrictive. Up the standard, and you'll have many more constraints within which to work.

    People have been calling for a p2p solution to email for a while, which presents its own challenges, but does suggest that those in the know are open to change.


    Just a thought...

  • by Spoing (152917) on Monday January 05, 2004 @07:52AM (#7879838) Homepage
    Under 'Computer Management' they mention locking down local user's machines so that they can't install software. I'd hope that none of you admins out there have to be told this. At a bare minimum, I lock down all systems as much as possible and loosen that restriction as needed. The alternitive is to monitor each machine daily or weekly to know what needs support and that's just too time consuming. If a specific app or applet is high demand, it's standardized; sit down anywhere, and you'll get the app.

    Personal firewalls; yes more people will use them. In some cases, they will be important, though the rules of if it isn't running it can't be exploited and less is more are much more effective on an intranet. Firewalls add management issues that can be avoided with careful use of tools like Nessus to audit your network. That said, limited and careful of local firewalls is a good idea if you've already taken the proper steps and the user has an identifiable need.

  • by phoxix (161744) on Monday January 05, 2004 @08:15AM (#7879897)
    I've noticed a trend with a bit of the spam i've been getting recently: Random HTML.

    The following is an example:

    <Aegf>Bigger</gorR>><feakj> feet today!<alefa>

    I have to admit, its rather effective in tricking many spam filters. Most spam filters can't tell the difference between real and fake HTML. Additionally, most HTML rendering engines automatically skip the false HTML, and still show the spam message.

    Sunny Dubey
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The more I read on this, the more I become convinced that AI will come about as a result of the spam wars.
  • by j33px0r (722130)
    Hmm...if the greatest email filter (the delete key) isn't working for you and your time is soooo precious because you are a corporate big wig then you always can use your "secretary" to preview the emails and delete the crap. Or have we learned nothing from years of postal services and mailrooms?

    blocking all spam is like saying the RIAA can stop you from burning a cd. its just not going to happen
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday January 05, 2004 @08:27AM (#7879955) Homepage
    • Major spammers begin sentence
      Three major spammers began their sentences today at the U.S. Federal Penitentiary at Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Their Romania-based operation had created several well-known viruses to assist in sending spam by breaking into the computers of others. Each was initially charged with 12,346,000 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The leader was also charged with operating an ongoing criminal enterprise. FBI and Homeland Security investigators located the spammers, and the U.S. Department of State arranged for their extradition to the US for trial. All pled guilty to reduced charges after being convinced that they could be put away for life. The leader will serve 25 years, and his assistants will serve 15 years each.
    • National Security Agency releases major enhancements to NSA Secure Linux
      Over the last several years, NSA has quietly been enhancing NSA Secure Linux, and has now released a secure Linux distribution for general use by U.S. Government sites. In this system, information coming in from the Internet is automatically held at a low level of trust, and cannot corrupt other information on the machine. A compatible secure browser, mail server, web server, and DNS server are provided. Free, open source copies of this code are available.
    • Microsoft loses software liability case
      New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer announces a $12.6 billion verdict against Microsoft in the "Blaster VIII" case. The court held that Microsoft violated New York's "reckless endangerment" law by distributing web browsers which automatically opened content that might contain viruses, resulting in the distribution of the "Blaster VIII" worm to over 200 million computers worldwide.
    • Dell recalls 1.2 million computers.
      Dell today announced the recall of 1.2 million computers for a security flaw. Fear of a liability lawsuit prompted the move.
  • by weave (48069) on Monday January 05, 2004 @08:32AM (#7879980) Journal
    • A security flaw will be found in Microsoft Windows that will allow a remote attacker to execute code of the attacker's choice on your PC.
    • A rootable hole will be discovered on Mac OS X that will require someone to be running some rare non-default configuration on OS X and require the computer to be bombarded by high level concentrations of tetryon particles, but only during high sun spot activity. If so, a local user can gain access to the administrator account. Microsoft will release press release saying "See, Macs are insecure too."
    • Some package that is included with most Linux distros but is not part of the Linux kernel will suffer from a buffer overflow that can be used to cause the app to crash, causing all computer analysts from PC trade magazines and web sites to conclude that Linux is insecure too.
  • by Tom (822) on Monday January 05, 2004 @09:07AM (#7880127) Homepage Journal
    Almost all of these are just "we'll see the current trend continue".

    Ironically, my own prediction isn't much different:

    In 2004, lots of interesting things will happen in security, and none of the things that would matter will change. Instead, a lot of time, money and effort will be thrown at the wrong non-solutions.

    i.e. more of 2003, or 2002, or 2001, ...
  • by alsta (9424) on Monday January 05, 2004 @12:59PM (#7881832)
    The far most nefarious spam I've seen so far is the kind that has a bunch of dictionary words in the bare 7-bit part of a MIME encoded message. It's common to see this stuff if you have a mail client that doesn't render the multi-media portion of the e-mail by default. You'll see something like;

    conduit horse house press lingo technical gelatin overlord brown uniform

    In the muli-media portion you'll see spam like never before.

    How to stop these? You can't train a bayes database with dictionary words as it would eventually defang the whole method. Your only option I suppose would be to compare the contents of the multi-media portion with the 7-bit ASCII portion and see if they match. Problem here is to make the comparison fuzzy enough to allow for multi-byte characters and stuff like that.

    The words thing about this type of spam is that at best your bayes database is circumvented, but at worst it is trained to see good words as bad or bad words as good and is rendered useless.

    With SpamAssassin it is easy to set when to auto-train your bayes backend and when not to. I have my required_hits option set to '4.0' so I would use the following settings;

    use_bayes 1
    auto_learn 1
    auto_learn_threshold_spam 7
    auto_learn_threshold_nonspam -5.5

    With this I am reasonably confident that I am not training my bayes database with good words as bad unless it really is found to be spam impirically, and inverse unless I am sure it's a good e-mail, typically by means of AWL or whitelist_from.

    If anybody has solved this, I would be very grateful to hear what you did and how you did it.
  • by Cruciform (42896) on Monday January 05, 2004 @01:40PM (#7882246) Homepage
    I just got one of those "Millions of email addresses on a CD" spams. It includes the fax number required to request them.

    Anyone in the 240 and 416 area codes that feels like clogging up someone's fax machine with tubgirl and goatse?

    Here's the meat of this junk (I removed several hundred asterisks):

    --quote begins--
    DON'T YOU WANT TO KNOW!

    PURCHASE OUR Email Addresses Directory ONLY
    IF YOU WANT TO PURCHASE OUR Email Addresses Directory with
    525 MILLION in 5-disk set.
    Complete package 5-disk set only $99.00!!
    DO NOT REPLY TO THIS EMAIL ADDRESS. TO ORDER, READ BELOW:

    Fill out the Form below and fax it back to
    1-240-371-0672 OR 416-467-8986

PLUG IT IN!!!

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