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Spam The Internet

Spam is Dead 485

Vainglorious Coward writes "Two years on from Bill Gates' promise to eradicate spam, an article in The Observer claims that spam has passed its peak and is now declining. Is it just me that hasn't noticed this?" I got almost a third more spam in 05 than 04. I guess I exist outside the bell curve on this one.
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Spam is Dead

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  • Oh Please (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GmAz ( 916505 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:07PM (#14459118) Journal
    As soon as 2006 hit, my gmail account started getting spam. I have gotten 7 today alone. Argh.
    • Re:Oh Please (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GmAz ( 916505 )
      But considering that I only use this e-mail account for family, its quite amazing. I have another account for online purchases and other online stuff. I used to have an account that I quit using because of hundreds a day. I left it be for about 6 months and I had over 55,000 unread messages when I closed it. Good 'ol yahoo mail.
    • by lumbercartel.ca ( 944801 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:39PM (#14459389) Homepage
      Some of those spammers must've just come back from their holidays at the garbage dump (I just can't bring myself to describe their usual hang-outs -- it would be a complete waste of SlashDot's resources).
    • really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Phil Urich ( 841393 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @08:35PM (#14459771) Journal
      My own gmail account remains Free and Clear; I actually got one spam message ever on it, and I've had it for quite awhile now (and get quite a few e-mails and even subscribe to a few yahoo groups via it). And it's not like my e-mail address is that obscure, just my own first name followed by two other letters (and then the @gmail.com, naturally). The same could be said of my ISP e-mail address, or my university e-mail, or my hotmail/msn address, or even better my yahoo mail address which I fling around willy-nilly to sign up for things or whatnot whenver they require an e-mail address. And yet none of those e-mail addresses, all of which (except for my Uni one) I use astonishingly frequently and throw around all over the place, get any spam. Whatsoever. None. Except for that one gmail one (which ruined my perfect record, grr).

      Note, also, that I turned off spam protection in hotmail, turned it off in yahoo mail, have none for my ISP one or my Uni one (both would only mark e-mail as spam instead of blocking it anyways, so I would know), and etc. Considering how high the signal-to-noise ration is, the possibility for false-positives understandibly outweighs the miniscule spam concerns I would have.

      So what the hell am I doing right that most people seem to be doing wrong?

      First off, none of my addresses are entirely intuitive or plain. No numbers even, nothing other than pure letters, but nothing that would show up unmodified in a wordlist or namelist (not even with good ol' "two random letters at the end of the string"). My sister has a gmail address of the same length as mine, but gets literally hundreds of spam messages every single day. The difference is that hers is her last name, while mine is my first name with two letters from my last; so hers is likely to show up in wordlists. That seems to be the kicker.

      Meanwhile, my yahoo address seems to attest to the idea that signing up for things online won't get you spam, BUT the things I sign up for are message boards at places like BeyondUnreal.com or the official The Trews webboard or maybe to view some newpaper online (for those amnesiac days that I don't remember about BugMeNot). So nothing particularily sketchy.

      In other words, as long as a person is relatively smart about how they handle their e-mail, they should be fine, 'tis my theory. This theory is not without major flaws, though, I'll admit. And furthermore, sometimes a person just wants a specific e-mail address, and it sucks then that it might just doom them to spam.

      And further going down the questionable route of using my own personal experience as a scientific study, seeing as I had no spam until that one message, it would look something like this, starting arbitrarily in 2000:

      2000 - 0%
      2001 - 0%
      2002 - 0%
      2003 - 0%
      2004 - 0%
      2005 - 100% OMFG 2005 IS TEH SPAM APOCALYPSE
      2006 - 0% (so far...)

      So, in other words, I can prove anyone right. Parent? Sure, spam has
      increased DRAMATICALLY in the last while. Naysayers? Bah, spam isn't
      a problem! Etc. Ah, subjectivity.
      • Re:really? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Nogami_Saeko ( 466595 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @09:06PM (#14459996)
        I suppose the amount of spam that I get on my home email account seems to have gone down a bit, but there is still plenty coming in on Gmail - most of it gets caught in the filter, but the occasional one gets through, but even that gets filtered because I usually have my home email client check Gmail through POP3.

        For my home system, I use POPFile (http://popfile.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]), which has a nearly perfect (99.34%) accuracy rating after using it for almost three years now.

      • Re:really? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fingusernames ( 695699 ) on Friday January 13, 2006 @03:53AM (#14461704) Homepage
        So what? Your steps to avoid spam don't disprove that it is a massive problem, or that it is worsening or lessening.

        I have had the exact same email address since 1990. It is just three letters long, and is plastered all over the place on Usenet from the 90s, various old web pages, mailing list subscription lists from before they were confidential. I receive about 1300 spam messages per day on average, every day. And that is AFTER the MTA (Postfix) eliminates a lot of spam through DNS blacklists, RFC and RDNS compliance checking, and so on. I'll be doing greylisting next.

        I also help to run the mail system of an ISP. Spam and viruses, by far, are most of the email these days. By far.

        Spam is a horrible disease on the Internet. It increases the cost to everybody, in bandwidth, the cost of staff at ISPs battling it, and in end-user time wasted on it.

      • Re:really? (Score:5, Funny)

        by kormat ( 88510 ) on Friday January 13, 2006 @06:33AM (#14462179) Homepage
        My own gmail account remains Free and Clear; I actually got one spam message ever on it, and I've had it for quite awhile now

        Dude, it's just a junk email, let it go. It's not like it's a family heirloom, you don't have to pass your one junk email down to your children and your children's children.

    • by cryptor3 ( 572787 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @09:27PM (#14460127) Journal
      Me too. I think that on New Year's Day, at least seven spammers emailed me to wish me a more fulfilling and enlarged new year!
  • Centralized Email (Score:4, Interesting)

    by (1+-sqrt(5))*(2**-1) ( 868173 ) <1.61803phi@gmail.com> on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:07PM (#14459120) Homepage
    The problem with the micropayment- or trusted-sender-model seems to be: What stops someone from setting up pop3 cum sendmail and ignoring the illicit contract?

    Gates and co. would have to have an effective monopoly on email traffic for that to work. (Which might have been conceivable before the advent of Gmail, by the way.)

    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:13PM (#14459166)
      Gates and co. would have to have an effective monopoly on email traffic for that to work.

      Boy, I bet they never thought of that.

    • My understanding is that if it someone were to attempt this, they would have to somehow pay the account of the *receiving* program, not the sending program. So, for a person at Hotmail to receive your email, you must pay ten cents. That would be the only logical way to run this kind of system.
    • Re:Centralized Email (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:47PM (#14459436)
      Here's how I assume micro-payments work: You come out with a standardized system for handling micropayments- that is an open, say, xml format so that any micropayment applications can talk to each other. Then any company that wants to handle micropayments (Paypal, Yahoo, Citibank, Fred's Bargain Micropayments, etc.) starts selling them. When you (your email app working automatically, or whatever) buy a micropayment, it comes with a tag saying how much it's for, who sold it, and what it's record number is. These get attached in the standard micropayment format as an attachment to an otherwise normal email record. The recipient computer's email program then goes and establishes a secure connection with the person who sold the micropayment and makes sure it really exists and is for the right amount. Of course, maybe Fred's Bargain Micropayments is an illegitamate vendor who exists only to facilitate spam and will "confirm" payments but never give you the money. This is why your email client will automatically go get lists online of known, valid micropayment vendors.

      Who will maintain these lists? Anyone. Google? Consumer Reports? will they be free, or require micropayments or subscription fees to access, or be ad supported? Who cares, markets competition will work it out between vendors and consumers. At any rate, the basic system is sound, and does not necessarily require any sort of vendor lock-in to work.

      To the user, all you have to do is set up your email client with the secure server(s) providing lists of valid micro-payment and email-insurance vendors (or use whatever defaults it comes with), and then tell your client how much money you require (reject, or move to SPAM folder, all messages that don't come with a payment or insurance policy of over $0.015) or whatever. Then say you get a piece of marketing mail you don't want insured at $0.02. Your computer checks the micropayment insurance vendor list and finds the vendor specified is valid, then it goes to the vendor and finds that the listed payment is valid, so the message goes in your inbox. You look at it, you decide it's spam, you click the "get insurance payment" button in your email client, and it goes and retrieves the $.02 and puts it in your account. The spammer who sent it will then see that you collected their payment, and either decide it's worth $0.02 to them to get stuff to you, or else take your name off their list so you don't collect any more of their micro-payment insurance policies.

  • by chriss ( 26574 ) * <chriss@memomo.net> on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:08PM (#14459122) Homepage

    My spam peaked early 2004 with about 30,000 mails per stuffing not only my inbox, but also my DSL connection. I had a "catch all" option on several dozen domains and most of the spam I received was addressed to non existing mail boxes. Due to my local spam filters very efficient handling of the problem I only started to worry about the situation when downloading all the spam started to take hours and my provider complained about the daily traffic.

    The problem with the non existent mail addresses became a large one sometimes in 2003, when enough people had some kind of spam filtering that deflected most of the usual spam. I guess that sometime in 2004 even the last catch all rules have been disabled, so that today simply guessing email addresses will gain nothing for the spammer.

    So maybe spam has not really peaked, but there are simply different waves of spam techniques. Some of them rely on mass, others on tricking the filters. We may simply be in a "smart spam phase". A lot of the spam that reaches me today shows the message as a picture instead of text and I have not yet figured out why thunderbird will display those pictures, since I disabled this.

    But the article is right in spam becoming something like a background noise. I still have to manually mark about 100 mails per day as spam, but I got very fast in recognizing it and it only takes a few seconds. I'm always astonished if I meet friends whose email address have not been public for more than a decade and who are very annoyed if one or to mails per week pass their spam filter. To me it is like complaining about banner ads. It's just an unavoidable part of the internet ecosystem, like mosquitos.


    memomo.net [memomo.net] - brush up your German, French, Spanish or Italian - online and free

    • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:22PM (#14459253)
      To me it is like complaining about banner ads. It's just an unavoidable part of the internet ecosystem, like mosquitos.

      You know, I don't know about you, but I tend to bring repellant when I go into the jungles we call the internet.

      Ad Block [mozilla.org]

      Almost 100% effect and is 100% lethal to banner ads.

      Annoyances don't have to be. Well.. If you don't mind the DDT.
      • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:28PM (#14459294) Journal
        I vote with my eyes. IGN has lost me as a reader, and other websites will as well if they go to IGN's lengths at advertising. If anyone annoys me with their ads, I leave. I don't block their ads, I simply don't read their website any more. If more people did this, there wouldn't be a need for ad blockers, as intrusive and annoying ads would be down at a minimum.
      • by chriss ( 26574 ) * <chriss@memomo.net> on Thursday January 12, 2006 @08:02PM (#14459559) Homepage
        Ad Block - Almost 100% effect and is 100% lethal to banner ads.

        I actually have a problem with ad blocking. I am well aware that a lot of sites depend on income from banner views and clicks. And since they offer their content free to me and I want it to stay that way, I usually do not filter banner ads. This is not a moral question, just a personal decision. I even click on ads if interested. But there is a limit how much annoyance I can bear, so I block pop ups and stopped visiting sites like macosrumors, which seem to try to compensate decline of content by increasing the amount of ads, page reloads, non working links etc.

        • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @09:01PM (#14459963) Homepage Journal
          I don't have much problem with relevant ads on a free site. However, when I start to see ads on a site which I have to pay to see, like a support site, or a site for software which I have purchased, then I figure that they are double dipping and can go fsck themselves. I mean that';s sort of like having to pay for cable and then still having to watch commercials. Oh, wait...
        • It's not the ads I mind. It's the ads that sing and dance, hang up the proceedings while being called from some remote server, jump in front of my face, or are too large thus a waste of MY limited resources (being stuck on dialup). Any of that ilk, I block just to keep from putting my fist thru the monitor. But text ads, small banners, and the like are unlikely to get blocked... why bother if they're not annoying me?

          Way back in the early days of banner ads, ISTM there were more interesting ads and fewer obn
  • Words Matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:08PM (#14459126) Homepage
    When you're talking about news sources, an "article" is something substantively different from an "opinion" piece. Articles are (ostensibly) researched and based in demonstrable fact, whereas an opinion piece is just that--opinion, nothing more or less.

    As it stands, this is simply an opinion piece, and is labeled as such on the Observer's website. Apart from a loose reference to remembered statistics on the website of a company that sells spam-filtering software, there's nothing in the way of solid evidence to support this guy's claims. What's more, he asserts that things like phishing mails and penny stock solicitations somehow fall outside the realm of "spam". He further goes on to claim that the "new wave" of spam won't actually last, because things like penny-stock spam "rely on credulousness"; he basically asserts that common sense will prevail against the "new" spam where it failed previously. I seriously doubt that the same caliber of individual who falls for the Nigerian e-mail scam will somehow be immune to the siren call of the "penny stock" scam--which, incidentally, has been around for years.

    While the author has some valid points, I think he's drawing conclusions on bad assumptions and gut reactions, not hard data.

    • Mea culpa (Score:2, Insightful)

      You're totally right, I should have written "piece", not "article".

      /me lashes self

    • Re:Words Matter (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pilkul ( 667659 )
      I wonder, too, if most spammers actually manage to turn a profit out of their stuff. I've heard many people say, "well some people must send money to the spammers, or they would give up", but I'm not so sure.

      Small-time white-collar crooks like spammers tend not to be too bright, and are always trying harebrained schemes to get rich quick. I think it's perfectly possible that most spammers spam just because everyone else is doing it, and they wrongly believe it's an easy scheme to make money.

    • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:31PM (#14459327) Homepage Journal
      fighting spam, much like "the war on terror" or "the war on drugs" or fighting pedophilia, is mostly a policing activity. that is, it never ends, nor will it ever end, nor should you think it will ever end, if you really understand the nature of the problem

      spam/ drugs/ terror/ pedophilia/ etc. will always require personnel and effort to prevent, forever. it's just a cost of civilization. for to not fight these things allows them to proliferate and spread. it's a maintenance issue, just like taking out the trash to the curb every thursday. it's not like you take the trash out one day, and you never have to take it out again. no, trash constantly accumulates, and it always will. if you think terror, or hard drug use (really only hard highly addictive drugs are a problem), or spam, or pedophilia, or other problems like these, is something you can oppose or (even worse) accept, and the problems just go away, you simply don't understand what these problems are really like

      every generation, there will be some group of idiots who think bombing the feberal building in oklahoma city or flying airplanes into office towers is a wise move. likewise, every generation some group of a**holes will see smuggling heroin and cocaine as a good business move (it is, but its the social byproducts of the business itself that is the problem). and, every generation, someone will think "hey, i can just send out a million emails." nothing you will ever do will stop such people from constantly being reborn anew in every generation, forever

      these thinks, just like spam, must always be fought, for all time. yes, you can change protocols, but there is no technological fix to human ingeniousness and cravenness: someone will always try to game the system for their benefit, despite all of the suffering it creates for the rest of us. a lot of slashdot types would be thinking "technological fix!" "technological fix!" ...no: there is no technological fix to ingenious asocial behavior. a bored teenager is always smarter than your protocol, and always more craven then the good intention of those who create the protocols. it's the tragedy of the commons. so those who see email spam going away with a technological fix are missing the larger point: you don't destroy the behavior, you just move it around: IM spam, blog spam, etc

      true wisdom on the issue of spam and other social ills like it are ones of acceptance of the problem, and constant vigilance of the problem, at the same time. it's not like you can accept the behavior as OK, and its not like you can fight it and kill it once and for all. what is needed is more people understanding the true nature of social ills like spam/ terror/ hard drugs/ etc and understanding that, by their nature, they are mundane criminal policing issues like burglary and vandalism: always with us, but always unacceptable, all at the same time

      this is wisdom on these issues. beware anyone who says you can accept these things, and the problems go away, or people who say you can fight these things, and kill them once and for all. such people don't know what they are talking about

      • ...no: there is no technological fix to ingenious asocial behavior.

        Yes there is. It is called a gun.

        And its application is a bullet to the head of the anti-social person given by the governmental authorities of the day. The anti-social person can no longer affect society and can no longer by pass any methods intended to keep him in check.

        But of course there is a major moral problem with my suggestion and should never be taken as advice.

        I'm just stating the theoretical situation in which technology trumps so
      • by misleb ( 129952 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @09:36PM (#14460179)
        ighting spam, much like "the war on terror" or "the war on drugs" or fighting pedophilia, is mostly a policing activity. that is, it never ends, nor will it ever end, nor should you think it will ever end, if you really understand the nature of the problem,

        The problem with these never ending "wars" is that they keep building up. With this "nor should you think it wil ever end" mentality is that it gets to the point where you are actually making things worse by being so relentless. Take the war on drugs, for example. How many people are hurt because drug use is criminalized rather than treated as a health issue (which it is)? That is what you get when you start waging "war." How much farm land in Columbia is destroyed and people poisoned because the US dumps herbicides all over the place to kill coca crops? Lots. At some point you need to back off theses never ending "wars" and ask youself if the casualties are really worth it.

        As for the "war on terror," how much terrorism is CREATED by the war on terror? You go into a country thinking you are going to kill all the terrorists and guess what? You've just pissed off a whole bunch of people who previously didn't feel particularly strongly. Also consider the freedoms that people are willing to give up once "war" declared. "War" is a very powerful term and I think we should reserve it for big things. Pretty soon people will start believing that "war is peace, peace is war."

        And back on topic... why is there a "war on spam?" Just install damn filters and be done with it. Any half decent spam/virus filter (and there are many out there) can stop at least 90% of all SPAM. So what is the big deal? Just push your services provider to install better filters and get on with your life.


  • In the past 72 hours I've got over 300 spam which got past my ISP's spam filters. 98 yesterday alone. When I clean out the spam trap for my mail account it still has thousands piled up in there I need to erase.

    Nostadamii these people ain't. A little logic may explain the diminishing amount of spam by their measure, such as changing behaviour on the internet. I find much of it is directly linked to postings on USENET groups, some of which have seen floods of cross-posting trolls. Some newsgroups seem

    • Usenet is such an old and well-standardised technology that all the address harvesting programs have support for it. You are opening yourself up to massive spam if you make so much as a single post there. It's not really representative of the state of most of the Internet.
      • > You are opening yourself up to massive spam if you make so much as a single post
        > there

        I post to Usenet all the time, using an unobfuscated email address and I don't get any spam, so either what you're saying is no longer true, or gmail's spam protection kicks ass!
  • Spam is dead for me. (Score:3, Informative)

    by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:09PM (#14459135) Homepage Journal

    I've had an e-mail address for over 15 years. My spam in the past 2 months is less than I had 10 years ago.

    I post my main address unobfuscated on /. and 25 other public forums. My signal to noise ratio is 100:1. In 5 days I received about 200 real e-mails and 3 spam.

    I gave up hosting my own e-mail late last year. I moved all my employees and family to gmail. I'm saving $4000 annually in labor and maybe $4000 in hardware, software and bandwidth.

    With giving up my corporate domain name address I'm giving up headaches and spam.

    Try it, you'll love it.
    • by captain_craptacular ( 580116 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:17PM (#14459205)
      I did the same and get so little spam it's not even funny. I use both gmail and yahoo and both are excellent at rooting out the spam. The one difference being that I get a small amount (couple times a month) of Yahoo spam on the Yahoo account, which is a small price to pay for free email. I don't remember the last time I considered spam a serious problem.

      Hows that for a useless "me too" post?
    • Like you I publicly post this address, but only on /. 22.7% of my gmail inbox is spam (20 of 88 messages). However, there are another 1394 in my spam folder.
    • Not quite dead (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Vainglorious Coward ( 267452 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:32PM (#14459330) Journal
      You may not be seeing it, but it's still taking up gobs of bandwidth, disk and CPU, and *somebody* has to pay for all that. I think that the costs to transfer, store and process spam outweigh the cost of individuals' time spent reading/deleting it.
    • I, too, use gmail. Like you, my address is on my slashdot account. Unlike you, I get about three to eight spams per day. I consider this to be pretty fantastic for an address plastered all over the internet...
    • by Buran ( 150348 )
      I wouldn't buy from someone whose corporate address is run out of a free web-based email service. If a company can't bother to have its own domain name or is blatant about using free-mail for its official corporate functions, then they appear no better than the stereotypical pimply kid running a business out of his parents' basement. I don't know how many customers bypass you because of this amateurish idea, but I know I would.

      Why not register a domain and have all the corporate email addresses just forward
      • If you forward your mail into your gmail account, the spam checkers don't work anywhere near as well or even at all, google must rely heavily on blacklists.

        So this approach doesn't work very well at all.

  • I get less spam now than I used to, but I assume that is because my ISP filters a lot of it.

    I report all of it to SpamCop [spamcop.net].
  • by tiltowait ( 306189 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:10PM (#14459143) Homepage Journal
    Anyone with a comment-enabled blog knows that e-mail spam is small worry compared to comment spam, Splogs [wikipedia.org] and the like. Wikis and the like are vulnerable to spambots as well.
  • by TecKnow ( 902884 )
    For marketing purposes no one receives 'spam' anymore, now they receive 'supper surprise funmail!' it tests much better focus groups.
  • I view less spam thanks to the wonderful filters infront of my email client.
  • Maybe if you don't consider phish to be a kind of spam. That accounts for 90% of what gets past my filters these days. (And I suspect that that's because of the distribution of message types, rather than a problem with the filters.)
  • There's lots of factors.

    At work, I get very little spam. My company's filter, coupled with SpamBayes [sourceforge.net] with a year of training does extremely well. The bigger problem is that I occasional miss e-mails that vanish in the ether.

    With my GMail account, about 30% of my e-mail is spam that gets through. I'm hopeful that number will go down with training or Google tweaking their service.

    It does seem that the days of getting wildly pornographic images in my work e-mail are long gone. Sniff.
  • The ONLY way spam will go away is if stupid people stop buying the products advertised in it. If spam pays, they will find a way to send it. That's the bottom line.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • You ever try to get live pig parts into a can that small? I think not.
  • *checks inbox*

    Nope, spam isn't declining for me.
    Wtf is a "Penis Launcher" anyway? :|
    • Yeah, even declining doesn't mean "dead." Spam will be dead when I can turn off Apple Mail's filtering and seeing a spam in my inbox is an event. Too bad the world wouldn't just get some critical thinking skills, then we could get put a serious dent in all the stupid advertising, not just the spam.

      Apple Mail's spam filter works great though. My only false positive ever was a message from the university but they were asking for money, so I can understand Mail's point of view. ;)
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  • The spam that *tries* to get to my mailbox has been on an ever increasing curve for years. It did not slow down in 2005, nor in the first part of 2006.

    However, the amount that actually makes it to my inbox has dwindled to maybe 1 or 2 a month. Spam filtering technology has outpaced and outperformed the spam sending technology beginning last year (IMHO).

    On the other hand, I have not noticed an serious change in the spam algorithms in the last 6-8 months. It may be that there is a sufficient number of ungu
  • "I guess I exist outside the bell curve on this one."

    What? The whole point of a bell curve is that extremes are possible. If you're accepting that spam follows a bell curve then your single data point is competely meaningless. A bell curve isn't a trend that you can follow or not follow - it's a distribution.
  • by smartin ( 942 )
    The reduction is do to the very effective CANSPAM legislation (snicker).
  • by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:13PM (#14459172)
    Someone big says something big will stop soon.

    Something big begins to slow down.

    Invalid conclusion: the two are associated.

    Useful thought: maybe it would have slowed down by itself.

    (I think spam must eventually tail off, because it operates on the basis of effort vs profit; as spam increases, I suspect the value of an individual spam decreases; it's not a stable system. In the end, the volume of spam should therefore level off, entirely without outside intervention.)
  • Gates Quote (Score:5, Funny)

    by Animus Howard ( 643891 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:14PM (#14459184)
    "Nobody will ever get more than 64,000 spams."

  • Although Thunderbird catches 95% of the crap in my inbox (I'm up to about 200 junk emails per day) and I've trained it, a few get through. The ones that get though are almost always good-sounding terms jumbled into a "sentence" (sort of like some Slashdot replies). What's the point of that?

    Is this designed to poison the filtering? Why bother?
  • Since the latest Exchange Service pack introduced the upgraded spam filter I get, maybe 1 spam email, every few weeks. It seems to catch them all and put it in the junk-email folder. Only one false spam id so far. Spam still comes in, but it never gets in my way... not to mention it doesn't cost me anything extra for the filter so I'm pretty content.

    I know you guys are going to flame (like usuall) for saying anything that is pro-ms or suggests they did a decent job, but could we at least reserve the flam
  • Want to stop it? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <greg@gksnetworks.com> on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:20PM (#14459229) Homepage
    Yes, this does take some work, and no it isn't for everybody. But this has totally eliminated all spam to my inbox (mostly due to greylisting, I think)

    1. Get a high speed connection
    2. Use some dyndns service, or register your domain, or get a business class line.
    3. Set up a sendmail server
    4. Use mimedefang, spamassassin, and milter-greylist
      • set up the greylist for 5 minutes or so. Spammers don't retry.
      • discard obvious stupidity in your mimedefang filter(no '.' in helo argument, trying to say they are you in the helo, helo is RFC1918, sender is on spamhaus RBL/XBL, etc)
      • set up things like receipt throttling and greet pause in sendmail

    I was getting 2-3 flagged by spamass after passing through the mimedefang stuff before implementing greylisting. Post greylisting I've yet to get a single spam in my spam folder (they never made it to my inbox before, but I still had to deal with them.). I have things configured to flag at 2 points, discard at 7. My bayes filters have about 2 years worth of training on them, and I use RBL scoring too.

  • by Diordna ( 815458 )
    Think again! Much of what you think is "spam" is actually legitimate. Contrary to popular belief, Nigeria really *is* filled with millionaires. Of all of these, the most prominent seems to be Esenam Ayele [bbspot.com].

    Why are you all so prejudiced against these great offers? I myself have bought many of these products *nudge nudge* and, although I haven't seen any results yet, I have great faith.
  • The real crux of this problem is that spam is a social problem. Although many people treat it as a problem that can be solved by purely technical means, in the long run the problem will always be there because:

    0. There will always be a criminal element determined to make "a quick buck" without regard for others as long as there are people willing to do business with this criminal element (in this case, the spammers).

    1. Many people use the internet who aren't computer specialists, thus are easily fooled by
  • I got almost a third more spam in 05 than 04. I guess I exist outside the bell curve on this one.

    Why? Between GMail's filtering and Thunderbird's filtering, I have to deal with maybe 2 spam emails per week. I "get" plenty of spam. But it's DOA... in my spam folder.

  • by Hosiah ( 849792 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:23PM (#14459260)
    You're only still getting SPAY-UM because you LACK FAITH in the HEALING POWER of the Almighty Bill! BLEY-ESSED be his AH-HOLY NAY-UM! Yeah, he hath only to extend HIS HAND and take your blemishes away from your inbox! Now holds hands and UH-PAR-UYUH, PAR-AY with me brothers and sisters, that in this hour these doubting unbelievers will yet turn their hearts to the ONE TRUE FAITH, that they might be YET SAY-UVED from their hour of darkness!
  • Year / Amount of SPAM
    1999 - N
    2000 - 2N
    2001 - 4N
    2002 - 8N
    2003 - 16N
    2004 - 32N
    2005 - 31.999 N <- decline! :D
  • spamAssassin and the junk filters in Eudora, Thunderbird all helped to ease the problem but I was still deleting lots of them by hand until I switched to greylisting on my mail server.
    Since most of the spam gets sent by minimal smtp on hijacked pcs which just dont know how to queue mail suddenly there was silence.
    It takes some whitelisting at first and some kinds of traffic, like listservers take another route, but I could finally dare to open some known for long mail adresses that had turnend into spam sin
  • I get more phishing emails than spams these days.

    Not that I actually *see* them, since spamassassin hasn't missed one to filter them into my spam box.
  • Here we go... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZeldorBlat ( 107799 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:34PM (#14459345)
    This article advocates a

    ( ) technical ( ) legislative (x) market-based ( ) vigilante

    approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

    ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
    ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
    ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
    ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
    ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
    ( ) Users of email will not put up with it
    ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
    ( ) The police will not put up with it
    (x) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
    (x) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
    ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
    ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
    ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

    Specifically, your plan fails to account for

    ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
    (x) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
    (x) Open relays in foreign countries
    (x) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
    (x) Asshats
    ( ) Jurisdictional problems
    ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
    ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
    ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
    ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
    ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
    (x) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
    (x) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
    (x) Extreme profitability of spam
    (x) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
    ( ) Technically illiterate politicians
    (x) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
    (x) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
    (x) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
    (x) Outlook

    and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

    (x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
    been shown practical
    ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
    ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
    (x) Blacklists suck
    (x) Whitelists suck
    ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
    ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
    ( ) Sending email should be free
    ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
    ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
    (x) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
    ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
    ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
    (x) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

    Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

    (x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
    ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
    ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your
    house down!
  • Ever since I started using TMDA (http://tmda.sf.net/ [sf.net] my spam has dropped to almost zero (I probably received 2 spams in 2005). TMDA isn't a perfect solution because valid senders have greater difficulty in getting through, however, since I don't know they are trying to email me, I don't miss the emails :)

    Personally, I prefer losing an unknown amount of email rather than manually checking the Bayesian filter to see if there are any false positives. Is that so wrong? :)
  • I don't think the spam problem is declining if you include all forms of unsolicited bulk email. Phishing is a real problem now - ask any bank. In the old phrase, it's not just the quantity it's the quality. Half as much spam that is four times as effective in fooling filters and/or fooling users is not a decline in spam. And would I like young members of my family or my mother to get even one spam a day offering the delights of, say, bestiality? Nope. One spam is too many and no jail is big enough for some
  • erm (Score:2, Funny)

    by bLindmOnkey ( 744643 )
    I get 4500 spam mails a month filtered through gmail each month since last year. Then again some asshole freshman thought it'd be funny to submit my email address along with my name and my school's telephone number to a few popup ads. Before last year I received 1 or 2 spam mails a day. So from 04-05 my spam mail increased 4500%. No decrease for me.
  • "these rely on credulousness, which has a finite supply"

    I don't know what planet the author of this piece is living on, but around here the place is filled with morons who wouldn't know a phishing scam from a hole in the head.

  • by anonymous_wombat ( 532191 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:41PM (#14459399)
    Hello, I represent some dead person in Nigeria, and would like to smuggle 6 billion dollars out of the country. Also, I would like to marry you. Please help me. I am a man or a woman, whichever you prefer.
  • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:55PM (#14459506) Homepage
    He made that statement Friday, January 23rd, 2004 [cbsnews.com] so he still has 11 days to pull it off. So he can still slack off for ten days and pull an all-nighter of something. (Maybe he could offer each spammer 2 million dollars to go away? For less than billion, problem solved .. right? ;)
  • by ConceptJunkie ( 24823 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @07:59PM (#14459545) Homepage Journal
    So Gates declared war on spam 2 years ago. Well, he declared war on Windows security problems 5 years ago.

    Given this track record, I expect he will next claim that he will eliminate corruption in Congress.

  • by Stan Vassilev ( 939229 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @08:03PM (#14459564)
    "Spam Is Dead"
    Let me guess, some sort of pun related to the fact that most of the spam comes from zombie pc-s and can't be stopped.
  • by scdeimos ( 632778 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @08:04PM (#14459579)
    Choice quotes from TFA:
    First, there are multiple spam filters between me and the outside world: some at the companies that forward my email (Google Mail does a very good job), some on my machine, some in the email programs I use.

    So he's not really getting any less spam at all, it's just getting hit on the head before it gets to his inbox.

    Yet the amount of spam seems to be declining. Postini (www.postini.com) keeps real-time data on the amount of spam it stops. A few years ago, it said spam made up around 80% of all the email circulating. When I looked last week the figure was about 60%.

    I wonder if by "amount" he means "proportion"? With many more users getting on the internet now than "a few years ago" it's not surprising that the proportion of spam may have dropped a little (overall), but I'd be very surprised if there's actually less spam being generated.

    In the last three years I think I've received one spam and two eBay phishing e-mails. I run my own mail domain, so when I register an e-mail address for anywhere I use nospam-[their domain]@[my domain]. This makes things very easy to trace and would seem to have some discouraging effect on places selling their address lists. The phishing e-mails were due to a hardware supplier whose customer database had been comprimised, for example.

  • by twitter ( 104583 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @08:44PM (#14459830) Homepage Journal
    An article praising Bill Gates' infamous attempt to charge everyone for sending email and points to a page that requires Macromedia Flash? Well, it's good to know what the other half thinks, I suppose. This guy lacks a clue about the origin and motivation for spam [whitedust.net] and clearly does not understand why it's a problem that will grow.

    His "Oh, it's not so bad," attitude is unfounded at best and what you might expect from M$ or the DMA as they promote, "legitimate" spam at worst. Spamhaus [spamhaus.org] tells us that there's still a big problem, despite steps that most ISPs have taken. The problem will get worse again as the spammers learn to get around those mostly trivial steps. It won't take much effort to read configuration information on broken Windoze machines and make them point to the ISP's SMTP to send mail like the end user does. In the mean time, the botnet continues spew network clogging spam, and DDOS and we all get to pay the price in slow networks and broken computers. It's not enough to sit smug behind your spam filters while the average user gets creamed. The nasties are strengthened and encouraged by that kind of attitude and they can get still you with a DDoS or Distributed Mailbomb [whitedust.net].

    Flaws in Microsoft's operating system are what enables the nasties. They have to be corrected or avoided to fix the problem. Until then, the botnet will be both a weapon and profit center at everyone's expense. No, the answer is not "trusted" computing or mail servers that waste your time with MENSA puzzles and collect a penny for Bill. The answer is fixing what's broken. Email works despite it's great abuse by a few idiots.

  • by krunk4ever ( 856261 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @10:53PM (#14460545) Homepage
    Yet the amount of spam seems to be declining. Postini (www.postini.com) keeps real-time data on the amount of spam it stops. A few years ago, it said spam made up around 80% of all the email circulating. When I looked last week the figure was about 60%.

    At first I assumed he was only couting spam that made it past the spam blocking softwares, but as it appears his theory is proven based on a different set of assumptions and facts.

    His entire article bases on the fact that the % of spams from all emails caught has dropped. This can mean one or more of many things which only follows his theory.

    1. Spam has actually decreased
    2. Spam has found ways to avoid being detected
    3. The volume of email has gone up, with more actual email while spam increased at a slower rate

    Honestly, I'd like to see more statistics and figures to decide how spam has changed in these past few years. Just by looking at #s from one company and what percentage they've stopped isn't enough to say much in my opinion.
  • by volpe ( 58112 ) on Thursday January 12, 2006 @10:59PM (#14460579)
    spam has passed its peak and is now declining.

    For me the peak was two weeks ago when I received 30 emails a day from the FBI and the CIA telling me I visit illegal websites.
  • Huh?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eggplant62 ( 120514 ) on Friday January 13, 2006 @12:35AM (#14461048)
    Based upon my logs and those of two other machines that I do mail admin for, I'm not seeing that at all. If anything, there are more infected Winboxen out there than ever before, spewing tons of trash, and it's usually the Russians, Soloway, or some mysterious spammer hosted in a block of Chinese servers, all sending via these compromised Winboxen. If anything, my numbers are down at home, though that's because I can be a bit more restrictive about my firewall rules. Spamassassin is doing a very good job at filtering a large majority of this drek.
  • by patio11 ( 857072 ) on Friday January 13, 2006 @12:58AM (#14461151)
    I keep three email boxes -- work (also has my old college address forwarding to it, for business/professional/family use only), gmail (general use, except I give all US-based or English-using websites this address), and yahoo Japan (general use, except I give all Japan-based websites this address). I get zero spam at work in my inbox because the address is non-published, and all of the spam comes to my university address where it gets munched by Spamassassin and spat out by Thunderbird. I've never gotten a single spam at gmail in a year of using it. Yahoo, despite everyone telling me "Their filtering is great, gets almost as much as Google", is *buried* in spam every time I open it, all very sickeningly spammy content in Japanese (can you imagine an email saying, in plain text, "Local girls want to meet you tonight to have SEX! Join our matching site, only $10 a month!" getting through your spam filter in this day and age? Thats what all my spam looks like -- they don't even bother trying to obfuscate.) I can only assume that this is because yahoo and Thunderbird's content analysis breaks down on Japanese... probably for lack of a decent segmenter for languages which aren't written with whitespace. Someday I've got to take a look at Thunderbird's filtering and see if I can't improve it a little bit. I work at a technology incubator in Japan and when they say, "Hey, patio11, got any ideas for what you would do if we gave you a lot of money?" I've got a pretty good idea :

    1) Take Spamassassin
    2) Make it work in Japanese
    3) ???
    4) Profit.

  • by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Friday January 13, 2006 @01:22AM (#14461272) Homepage
    I was checking Spamcop's (my mail provider) parent company Ironport www pages yesterday.

    Spam is dieing as you can see at http://www.ironport.com/toc/toc_spam.html [ironport.com]

    I think phishing by zombies are in rise.

    http://www.antiphishing.org/ [antiphishing.org] report available in pdf http://antiphishing.org/reports/apwg_report_Nov200 5_FINAL.pdf [antiphishing.org]

    BTW if you report spam, reportphishing@antiphishing.org is a good CC: target.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday January 13, 2006 @03:01AM (#14461583) Homepage
    Much of the improvement, surprisingly, is due to the CAN-SPAM act. Yes, it "legitimizes spamming". Yes, it's too weak. Yes, it overrides state law.

    What CAN-SPAM does do is make it a criminal offense to forge headers. As a result, spam from any "legitimate business" is easily identifiable from the header. So it gets filtered out.

    This wasn't what the Direct Marketing Association expected. But that's what happened. As a result, the spams from legitimate businesses don't get delivered. Attempts to get around this "problem", like Bonded Spammer [bondedsender.com], didn't really catch on. So spam is almost useless to legitimate businesses now.

    This leaves the people who forge headers. They're now criminals. So they've been forced out of legitimate web hosting services onto "bulletproof" web servers in marginal countries. They can't send directly any more, or their connection will be pulled or IP addresses blocked.

    So now they have to find some illegal way to send spam. Which is getting harder. Most of the open relays have been plugged. They've been reduced to spamming through zombies taken over by viruses. This means they're committing serious felonies, and long jail sentences are a very real possibility.

    Spam is now a branch of organized crime, not marketing. And it's highly visible organized crime, which makes it vulnerable. It's not that hard to follow the money. We need to push for more law enforcement priority in this area.

    That's why spam is declining.

  • Reductions in Spam (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Exter-C ( 310390 ) on Friday January 13, 2006 @07:13AM (#14462262) Homepage
    I have been system administrating several large scale email servers with around 50,000 users or so in total. During the "spam peak" we would have over 400 spam emails a minute being marked which was around 60% of the total email volume through that period. Now we are seeing around 60 emails a minute with more users and domain names on the system than before. However statistics are not everything. If we look more closely at the stats we see that while we would have an average of 400 emails per minute as spam it would peak up to several thousand a minute at times and sometimes it would be less than 20-30 spam emails a minute. While now we are almost flat lining at around 55-65 spam messages which means its not as big a drop as would have originally expected but it is still a drop. One of the issues we also note is that many of the cable providers are now blocking port 25 which was traditionally a large percentage of the traffic spam on our service.

Air is water with holes in it.