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What Happens When You Reply To ALL of Your Spam 402

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'm-sure-it-really-helps dept.
bednarz writes "For Tracy Mooney, a married mother of three in Naperville, Ill., the decision to abandon cyber-sense and invite e-mail spam into her life for a month by participating in a McAfee experiment was a bit of a lark. The idea of the Spammed Persistently All Month (S.P.A.M.) experiment — which fittingly started on April Fool's Day — was to have 50 volunteers from around the world answer every spam message and pop-up ad they got. Mooney was game, especially since McAfee was giving a free PC to all participants. She told her story to Network World."
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What Happens When You Reply To ALL of Your Spam

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  • by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:56PM (#24022717) Homepage

    The Nigerian prince send her millions.
    She got 1000 Valium for $4.
    Her lover was more satisfied.
    And she won an iPod.

    And lived happily ever after. =)

  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:58PM (#24022733) Journal

    I find the idea of doing this to receive a free PC a fantastic irony, don't you?

  • Why a Windows PC? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pembo13 (770295) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @05:59PM (#24022737) Homepage
    Since the point of the experiment wasn't to test the operating system, why give the test subjects the operating system currently most affected by malaware? Why not a Mac or presetup Linux box?
  • Link to Spam diaries (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:01PM (#24022771) Journal

    McAfee Spam Experiment [mcafeespamexperiment.com]

  • Old spam (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vollernurd (232458) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:01PM (#24022775)

    As much as it would be good if she did indeed win the free iPod and get her hands on all that va_l1um, most spam that gets stored on my spam folder looks to be pretty old. I got a circular/spam message from the depths of hell the other day telling me to keep an eye out for some astral phenomenon or other. A Google search revealed that said event occurred in about 2006.

    Zombie relays sending out the same shite day after day. Most spam is totally useless. A bit like the Sky TV schedulers.

  • by pitchpipe (708843) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:02PM (#24022779)
    myself when I was new on the internet. I didn't know at first that the unsubscribe on the bottom of the email was just a way to verify that it was a live address, so I got lots.

    What I decided was that the companies that were paying for the spam must like it, so I would click on the link in the spam, find their customer service email and copy it. Then I went to google and entered "subscribe enter email". After that I spent quite a lot of hours signing these companies up for all kinds of email. I hope they liked it. When I had to put in a name I entered Spam War.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eric76 (679787)

      I reply to spam automagically.

      Whenever an e-mail arrives that doesn't fit any of several criteria, an automatic response is sent asking them to please encrypt their e-mail with my publically available PGP key. Their e-mail is then deleted and I never see it.

      The criteria to receive the e-mail:
      1) the e-mail is encrypted with my PGP key
      2) the e-mail is signed with their PGP key
      3) the source e-mail address is whitelisted
      4) the IP address of the source of the e-mail is whitelisted (local e-mail permitted)
      5) the

      • Please don't (Score:5, Informative)

        by XanC (644172) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:41PM (#24023207)

        It sounds like you send an enormous amount of backscatter [wikipedia.org], and are probably doing much more harm than good. It would be much better to simply drop the connection at SMTP time, rather than accepting and then generating a bounce. Or do like I do, and hold their connection open for a long time before actually dropping it.

  • well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Romancer (19668) <romancer&deathsdoor,com> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:02PM (#24022783) Journal

    "Mooney says, noting that the sudden upsurge in junk mail left the neighborhood postman somewhat aghast. "It grew exponentially, so I stopped giving out my home address," she says, adding, "I am concerned about the environment.""

    It's all well and good that she had an alias and a free pc to be subject to this open invitation for harassment, but to actually really give out your home address to these spammers is a bit reckless. She will, at a minimum, be regretting this for years since the "current resident" will be getting spam even if she directs the post office not to deliver mail to her alias.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:11PM (#24022903)

      ... would the address of your local waste recycling center.

      Electronic spam is bad because the sender pays almost nothing (just bounces it through zombies).

      But if the spammer is paying for PAPER to be delivered ... send more! Drive up their costs and drive them out of business.

      • by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:37PM (#24023167) Journal
        I love getting pre-paid business return envelopes in my mail. That way I can just send all the stuff that they send me right back to them. They pay to send it to me, and they pay to get it all back from me.
        • I love getting pre-paid business return envelopes in my mail. That way I can just send all the stuff that they send me right back to them. They pay to send it to me, and they pay to get it all back from me.

          If it's from a spammer, do us all a favour - tape it to a box containing a cinder-block.

        • I love getting pre-paid business return envelopes in my mail. That way I can just send all the stuff that they send me right back to them. They pay to send it to me, and they pay to get it all back from me.

          I love to do that, too! I've noticed, though, that nowadays a lot of companies have individually printed business reply mail that contains a serial number that probably maps to my name and address (how did they know that my parents, Mr. & Mrs. Resident, named me Current?). If I send it back, they'l

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Eunuchswear (210685)

            On a side note: yes, I did try once specifically respond to a charity organization [food for the poor] to take me off their list. I said that I would no longer contribute (I had contributed once) and could they please save my sanity --as well as their costs-- by taking me off the list. I kept getting more and more physical junk mail, almost as if they were being encouraged by my entreaties to stop. I threatened to diss them for wasting their income from donations, and I am making good on that threat with th

  • by captnjameskirk (599714) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:02PM (#24022789)
    Not only did I find it ironic that an article about spam would be interrupted by an obnoxious pop-up that blackened the article in the background until clicking out of it, but I won't participate in your "survey" designed to send me more spam, and I won't be visiting your site anymore. kthnx
  • by ObjetDart (700355) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:08PM (#24022869)

    Reminds of this great poem from years ago:

    http://www.satirewire.com/features/poetry_spam/01free_winner.shtml [satirewire.com]

    I Answered All My Spam

    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.

  • Irony (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ioldanach (88584) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:08PM (#24022875)
    Too bad it won't let me read page two of the article because it first starts by trying to ask me to complete a survey about their site then starts redirecting me elsewhere. I think that qualifies as irony.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by AaronLawrence (600990) *

      It was a typical annoying survey too, many dozens of questions on incredibly vague topics like "Would you rate our site [that I visited once for 2 minutes] as one of the most trustworthy on the web for information about IT?"

      Naturally I clicked through it randomly, except for answering that I'm responsible for "More than $1 billion in IT purchases"....

  • by Nichotin (794369) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:10PM (#24022887)
    Sentences like this sort of nails it: "It's all snake oil. I'm amazed at what true junk is out there when you're clicking through on e-mail."
    It tells a sad tale about the people these spam messages are targeted at. You really don't have to be computer literate to figure out that all this is pure crap. Judging by the dumploads of messages that hits my spam filter every day there must be too many fools with computers and internet access waiting to be parted from their money. Some times I wonder if I should start spamming, we really don't have harsh sentences in Norway...

    On a slightly offtopic note, she looks kinda M.I.L.F.!
  • I can just see it coming ...


    To all of my friends, I do not usually forward messages, But this is from my good friend Pearlas Sandborn and she really is an attorney.

    If she says that this will work - It will work. After all, What have you got to lose? SORRY EVERYBODY.. JUST HAD TO TAKE THE CHANCE!!! I'm an attorney, And I know the law. This thing is for real. Rest assured McAfee will follow through with their promises for this S.P.A.M. test mail.

    Dear Friends; Please do not take this for a junk letter. If you ignore this, You will repent later. McAfee is now the largest anti-virus software company and in an effort to make sure that their product remains the most widely used program, they are running an e-mail beta test.

    When you forward this e-mail to friends, McAfee can and will track it ( If you are a Microsoft Windows user) For a two weeks time period.

    For every person that you forward this e-mail to, McAfee will pay you $245.00 For every person that you sent it to that forwards it on, McAfee will pay you $243.00 and for every third person that receives it, You will be paid $241.00. Within two weeks, McAfee will contact you for your address and then send you a check.

    I thought this was a scam myself, But two weeks after receiving this e-mail and forwarding it on. McAfee contacted me for my address and within days, I receive a check for $2,500.00. You need to respond before the beta testing is over.
  • by spirit_fingers (777604) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:16PM (#24022955)

    I think her reaction to her spam is classic: "I was horrified," says Mooney, a realtor by profession. "It's all snake oil. I'm amazed at what true junk is out there when you're clicking through on e-mail."

    Spammers love people like her--people so insulated by American corporate media that they think the internet is just another shopping mall. And what could possibly go wrong in a mall? God bless her.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AMuse (121806)

      I also find it amusing as hell that she's a realtor by profession. I realize that a realtor can be helpful in an individual real estate transaction (mine sure was, recently) but AS A WHOLE I find their entire profession to be a leech on society, driving up housing values by 6% and engaging in incredibly anticompetitive behavior to try to keep the "Realtors' monopoly" on real estate transactions.

      Her calling SPAM "snake oil" strikes me as vaguely ironic, considering her profession.

  • Slowdowns (Score:4, Informative)

    by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:20PM (#24022975)
    I wonder, if they ever compared the speed of a clean install of Windows with an anti-virus to a malware messed up install of Windows and see how fast they were. In most cases I find that the anti-virus computer is slower then the one with a ton of viruses!!! And this being McAfee, I don't think that they would worry about slowdowns much (can't read TFA it doesn't want to load or is Slashdotted) because it seems that any computer with McAfee/Norton/any other commercial AV, is slow, really slow. Even on XP with newer hardware it still is slow.
  • Slow Server! (Score:5, Informative)

    by FudRucker (866063) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:24PM (#24023019)
    [Article Text]

    For Tracy Mooney, a married mother of three in Naperville, Ill., the decision to abandon cyber-sense and invite e-mail spam into her life for a month by participating in a McAfee experiment was a bit of a lark.

    The idea of the Spammed Persistently All Month (S.P.A.M.) experiment which fittingly started on April Fool's Day was to have 50 volunteers from around the world answer every spam message and pop-up ad on their PC.

    What would be the experience in 10 countries when everyday people, armed with a PC and e-mail account McAfee provided for the Global S.P.A.M. Diaries project, clicked through the spam and chronicled the results?

    Mooney who had observed the family's PC crippled just before Christmas by a virus was game, especially because McAfee was giving a free PC to all participants. She was selected to be among the 50 volunteers picked by McAfee out of 2,000 people who applied to be part of the adventure.

    By the time it was all over, after every bank-account phishing scam, Nigerian bank scheme, and offer for medication, adult content and just plain free stuff had been pursued. "I was horrified," says Mooney, a realtor by profession. "It's all snake oil. I'm amazed at what true junk is out there when you're clicking through on e-mail."

    McAfee is releasing the results Tuesday of its free-wheeling month-long S.P.A.M. experiment, done largely to illustrate if you didn't know already how spam is connected to malware and criminal activity, not to mention some of the slimiest marketing ever devised.

    Each S.P.A.M. volunteer saw an average of 70 spam messages arrive in their in-box each day, with men receiving about 15 more per day than women. That was a lot to answer, but "Penelope Retch" the alias that Mooney chose for her S.P.A.M. adventure answered every single message.

    In her guise as Penelope Retch, Mooney answered the e-mail that came into her account. "I'd see an interactive spam, open it, click on it and asked to be removed. That would only make it worse," she says. "They'd say 'no.'"

    Whether trying to win an iPod online, get free travel brochures, weight-loss tea or Maybelline eyeliner, the effect of entering a home address was extreme. Immediately, a deluge of mail landed at her doorstep, directed to the attention of Penelope Retch.

    "One of the mail offers I got was a $7,500 credit card for Penelope Retch," Mooney says, noting that the sudden upsurge in junk mail left the neighborhood postman somewhat aghast. "It grew exponentially, so I stopped giving out my home address," she says, adding, "I am concerned about the environment."

    Mooney clicked through on the phishing e-mails for fake Wells Fargo and other bank sites, sat back as the supposed government of Nigeria sought to give her an inheritance, and watched a foreign IP address go after a dummy PayPal account that had been set up as part of the S.P.A.M. experiment.

    Overall, the most obvious result of the S.P.A.M. experiment was that the PC that McAfee had provided for the project noticeably slowed down, clogged up with spyware, Mooney says.

    According to McAfee, which selected five participants from each of 10 countries for the S.P.A.M. experiment, the five U.S. participants received the most spam: 23,233 messages over the course of the month.

    Brazil and Italy were in the 15,000-plus category, and Mexico and United Kingdom above 10,000. Australia, The Netherlands and Spain were in the 5,000 to 9,000-plus spam range. The S.P.A.M. volunteers in France and Germany got the least, less than 3,000 for the month. McAfee didn't even include what it calls "grey mail" (e-mail that arrived after participants signed up for a newsletter, for example) in this count.

    Phishing e-mail accounted for 22% of the spam received by the Italian volunteers and 18% of the U.S. ones. In general, spam appears to still largely be delivered in English; French- and German-language spam were the only non-English spam to amo
    • Re:Slow Server! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@ ... a - h u dson.com> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:58PM (#24023401) Journal

      McAfee is releasing the results Tuesday of its free-wheeling month-long S.P.A.M. experiment, done largely to illustrate if you didn't know already how spam is connected to malware and criminal activity, not to mention some of the slimiest marketing ever devised.

      Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. The woman doing the surfing is a "realtor", (they're now more commonly known as realtwhores, not "realtors" or "real estate agents"), and anti-virus vendors are helping continue the Windows near-monopoly. They need Microsoft, and Microsoft needs them. One of them (Symantec) sent me I don't know how many spams offering to protect my "Windows PC" - to which I replied "What Windows PC, you f*ckheads - stop spamming me!" They didn't. I ended up abandoning the account.

  • English rules (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grizdog (1224414) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:25PM (#24023035) Homepage
    The article mentioned that far the majority of spam, even to countries where the official language is not English, was in English.


    There are lots of ways to interpret this, including that English speakers are idiots, but whatever else the spammers aren't being politically correct. They're using English because that is the way to reach people, and for the most part it doesn't pay to translate the same message into another language, even though that can't be very expensive.

  • Practical Value? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:47PM (#24023279) Journal
    It'd be nice if the experiment had taken a more practical approach.

    For instance, the experiment would have been potentially useful if Penelope Retch had a few honeypot credit cards and bank accounts to give out to spammers and phishing websites.

    Also of interest (at least to /.ers), the address I formerly used in my usenet sig still gets a TON of pornographic spam, promising some rather graphic scenery... and apparently I'm not all that uncommon. Did any of her volunteers reply to the pr0n spam? Did they get a deluge of pornographic material on their doorsteps?

  • by Duncan Blackthorne (1095849) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @06:54PM (#24023371)
    I'll bet they didn't go to the site of TFA. Talk about pop-ups! :-/
  • by pbhj (607776) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @07:41PM (#24023831) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, my web host actually sold on the admin email I gave them to spammers. Thing is it was a unique address traceable to them. Wonder how much they were paid and by whom. They're quite a big outfit too.

    Can't name them as still migrating one account away.

  • Small Sample Size (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pooua (265915) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @08:56PM (#24024543) Homepage

    Five people per country is not a very large sample.

    Incidentally, I get small but regular amount of spam in Russian, Spanish and Chinese.

  • the five U.S. participants received the most spam: 23,233 messages over the course of the month.

    I have one of the older private domains on the Internet, and for many years it was running a BBS gatewayed to Usenet, and then providing shell accounts. All the email addresses and Usenet Message IDs sat there like a ticking bomb until spammers started harvesting them. At one point I was getting so much spam I had to block China, Brazil, Argentina, and several ISPs in countries like Spain and Italy because the amount of spam I was getting was putting me over my colo's traffic cap to the tune of $750 a month.

    Looking at my current logs, yesterday, 17197 delivery attempts were blocked by RBL, 24561 attempts by greylisting, and almost 2000 were blocked by content filtering after receipt. And the only users on this box are myself and my family, who got a total of 81 legitimate messages actually delivered.

    That's more messages in one day than they're getting in one month.

    I wish it was only as bad as it was in 1997 [suburbia.com.au].

  • Wife experience (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:30PM (#24024831) Homepage Journal

    One time my wife got so sick of spam that she clicked the unsubscribe link on all the spams she received. Of course, this only told the spamming sites that there was someone on the other end... Now she gets a ton more a day. And she's crazy about deleting it, even when it's in her spam folder. I currently have like 7000 spams in my gmail spam folder and it ticks her off so much to see a number that large.

  • Spam count (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yoyhed (651244) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @09:49PM (#24024967)
    I'm surprised she only ended up with 23,000 spam at the end of the month, when purposely giving out her address. Ever since getting Gmail in 2004, I have been completely careless about giving out my address, but never gave it to spammers on purpose. I now have 7,742 messages in my Spam folder, which deletes messages after 30 days, so that's what I get in a month. I only see 1 or 2 of those 7k each month :-)
  • The real WTF is.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Tuesday July 01, 2008 @11:51PM (#24025921) Homepage

    Whay aren't the feds doing this then prosecuting the people who send the snail-mail for spamming?

  • by jopet (538074) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @06:24AM (#24027607) Journal

    "Overall, the most obvious result of the S.P.A.M. experiment was that the PC that McAfee had provided for the project noticeably slowed down, clogged up with spyware, Mooney says."

    It wasn't the PC that slowed down but the operating system. It would have been interesting to conduct that experiment with people using several differen operating systems and then look at the amount of damage and spyware found.

  • by Ilgaz (86384) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @10:22AM (#24029963) Homepage

    1) While we joke about it, Nigerian scheme has a real life consequence and there are several people who has been kidnapped, threatened with a real gun, found themselves in a plot which a countries government involved. There is nothing technical about it, there are no MCafee products to stop a guy showing up your door with a real gun as they got your home address.

    2) Worms/Viruses are all mafia type things run by real criminals who also has support from their governments and police. There is also terror network worm possibility. Your unprotected PC can be hosting the Al Queda sites for that month or some big pedophile network.

    Will MCafee give these people some legal protection? Did they instruct these people well? Did they tell about the funny looking Nigerian mails background and what kind of people runs those schemes?

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