What is Spam?
Spam is flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in
an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to
receive it. Most spam is commercial advertising, often for dubious products,
get-rich-quick schemes, or quasi-legal services. Spam costs the sender very
little to send -- most of the costs are paid for by the recipient or the carriers
rather than by the sender.
At the very minimum, spam is annoying. It
makes the tedious job of sorting through your mailbox take a little longer. Some
spam is offensive: The get-rich-quick schemes offend your common sense, and the
porn-site ads may offend your sense of decency. Spam wastes money and network
bandwidth. People who pay for their connect time become enraged when they wait
for a large message to download only to find they've been spammed. These outraged
people respond angrily to the spam, not realizing that the return addresses are
usually forgeries. The mail either bounces back to them (again wasting
bandwidth), or worse, winds up in the in-box of the innocent person whose return
address the spammers forged.
What Can I Do About It?
Two widely-used free services were once available to help ISP's filter spam. One of
these, Open Relay Behaviour Modification System (ORBS) operated successfully until
May of 2001, when it was successfully sued and shut down.
The other service, Mail Abuse Prevention System (MAPS) is still in operation.
However, facing legal difficulties, MAPS ceased it's free services as of August 1, 2001.
In light of this, Deep Sky Technologies Inc. will begin utilizing it's own mail filtering
software. Using spam sent in by customers, junk e-mails will be stopped at its source.
More Information About Spam
Follow these links for more information on Spam and what you can do about it.
How Does Spam Work?
It's worth knowing how the perpetrators of junk e-mail come up with the
e-mail addresses to send their messages to. There are several sources of mailing
lists, but most of them originate as the return e-mail addresses attached to
usenet postings in newsgroups.
If you post to usenet, chances
are you'll receive junk e-mail sooner or later. Avoiding usenet entirely is one
solution, albeit a fairly radical one. You might try not providing an e-mail
address for your newsreader Ð this has the catch of not allowing people who wish
to respond to your posts to get back to you personally. At least, this might be a
catch. It might be a feature, too.
There are mailing lists about
generated by software that automatically roams the web looking for e-mail
addresses embedded in web page. This won't be a concern unless you have your own
Spammers use Web-crawling robots and scripts that scan
newsgroups to generate lists of email addresses. They then augment these lists
with the names of legitimate subscription mailing lists in order to widen their
reach. Once they have their lists assembled, any standard mailer software can be
used to broadcast their message across the Net.
Spammers are fully aware
that they annoy people, and know that their business would be jeopardized if
their targets could fire back. If enough irate users were to complain to a
spammer's ISP, the spammer's account might be cut off. In fact, many ISPs now
have user agreements that explicitly forbid spamming. Even if the ISP takes no
notice, the flood of return mail to the spammer could quickly make the account
useless. For these reasons, among others, many spammers take pains to conceal
The next time you get a piece of spam, take a look at
its headers and try to figure out where it came from. If you think you know,
chances are you're wrong. The From: and Reply to: fields may be missing, or they
may be something obviously bogus such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Or it may look like
a perfectly valid ordinary address. Don't be fooled. Most of the return addresses
Some spammers even take advantage of the free
trial accounts offered by certain ISPs to fire off a few thousand emails and run
before the ISP realizes what's going on.
It's easy to spam because the
Simple Mail Transport Protocol (SMTP) makes it that way. Many, if not most,
mail-transport programs are set up to run in promiscuous relay mode, meaning that
they will accept and forward mail even if it's addressed to someone outside the
domain for which the relay is responsible. A very simple script, or even a human
armed with the telnet program, can connect directly to a machine that receives
incoming mail for an organization and fire off a barrage of hard-to-trace letters
addressed to recipients in some other locale.