The Spam Is Rising

A quick glance at the folder where my computer puts stuff it thinks is spam shows I’m getting a lot more of it lately (about 5 or 6 spams per day, right now, with more at weekends). The amount coming into the “spamtrap” addresses which report spam to the Distributed Checksum Clearinghouse for the benefit of the world at large seems to be going up too. The DCC works by counting how many times a particular message text has been seen in the wild. Messages with a high count are either spam or legitimate bulk email, so you need to whitelist the mailing lists you’re on so as not to filter them by accident. Every other bulk email that you didn’t ask for (and whitelist) is spam, by definition.

I’m actually doing some good with the spamtraps, as my computer is getting stuff which doesn’t already have a high count and maxing out its count as it sees it.

I can’t imagine what it’d be like for someone whose address appears somewhere on the web or Usenet and who doesn’t have any filters. It looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

7 Comments on "The Spam Is Rising"


  1. My Oxford e-mail address was up in various places (due to being secretary of a society) on the web and I hardly ever got any spam. Even my Hotmail address (and they’re reputed to be the worst for spam), only gets about one a day. (And even that might be said to be educational as I’m learning a different euphemism for penis every time… I can’t imagine who actually buys the penis enlargement stuff, but presumably some people do.)

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  2. I can’t imagine what it’d be like for someone whose address appears somewhere on the web

    Because my email account is 7 years old, has probably been passed around various mailing lists six times over, and because my address is indeed at the bottom of the CUCDW site, I get a minimum of 20 spams a day, often more like 40.

    There’s supposed to be a new filtering system available on the University systems, but I haven’t quite investigated it yet.

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        1. Did you have a look at what they scored? There’s some extra stuff in the headers, according to the UCS page I found. You can see the full headers by pressing “H” in Pine, although I think you might have to go and enable that in the setup page first.

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          1. OK, so I have now worked out what all that means.

            The two most recent bulk mails I got I pressed “H” on, and one said “score 0.1, required 10” and the other said “score 2.6, required 10”. I don’t know why “required 10”, because my filter is now set at 8. In any case, 8 clearly isn’t going to catch these mails if their score is that low. Am I really going to have to tighten up my filter so that I might miss real mails? What about all the legitimate mailing liss I’m on?

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            1. Am I really going to have to tighten up my filter so that I might miss real mails? What about all the legitimate mailing liss I’m on?

              The UCS is using SpamAssassin. That works mainly by looking for key phrases in the email which give it away as spam. There’s a bit of an arms race between spammers and filter authors, so the spammers tend to adapt to SpamAssassin by avoiding using its key phrases. More recent versions of it can do the DCC thing I described, too, but they may not have turned that on. Personally, I reckon that’s more effective than key phrases these days.

              Legit mailing lists probably aren’t going to get caught by it unless they start using spammy phrases, or you really are subscribed to the penis enlargement discussion list. I’d have thought there’d be a whitelisting facility too.

              There are programs you can attach to your mail client to help, but since you read your email by telnetting to hermes rather than using Outlook or summat, that’s not so much of an option.

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