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Understanding Spam
Who are the word freaks?

 9:13 am on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

I allow spam to come to my machine from the server and, with nary a glance, filter out several hundred mails each day with good ol' Mail Washer. However, when something catches my eye, I do check it out before downloading. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

Lately, I've come across several blatant spam mails appending a list of abstruse words, e.g. "project riverine drowsy parson palpable clamshell ministerial coxcomb copenhagen tropopause filly despondent trainman cilia dichotomize assam crayfish concur chevrolet indistinguishable deer decal grievous yogi chromatin offset hogan armoire bluegrass colloquial briny"

Given the many mails trailing this litany of words, I've been wondering what gives. Does anybody know what purpose / s these lists serve? Are they carried for other spammers or for later trojan searches on a server or end-user machine's mail client?

These lists of words are unknown entities and therefore intrigue me. I do not understand them. Any illumination will be most gratefully accepted.



 9:29 am on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Apparently, most current filters can be bypassed with the right combinations of words. Different words work for different filters.


 10:25 am on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the response. Okay, so from what you're saying I gather the lists serve as 'camouflage', shielding the overt spam message from the server filter. In other words (literally), using text to hide rather than be found. What losers... such a tactic doesn't preclude the filter nailing the message on the subject-line content or, for more complex programs, combinations of recognisable spam words. Well, I guess they'll be read only by those who accept and open them... I read those I picked up on for professional reasons only, I assure you :).


 11:29 am on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

>for professional reasons only

!I hope that doesn't suggest you actually buy products from spammers.

A few customers are all that spammers need to feel it's worthwhile junking the system.


 2:00 pm on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Apparently, most current filters can be bypassed with the right combinations of words. Different words work for different filters.

This is only true for simplistic filters that use static word lists. A statistical (bayesian) filter will have no problem ignoring the added garbage after a little training.


 3:10 pm on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

My suggestion stemmed from reading this.. which does talk of a weakness in bayesian filters
BBC - How to make spam unstoppable [news.bbc.co.uk]


 3:31 pm on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

which does talk of a weakness in bayesian filters

I'm using spambayes myself, and it filters those word lists very reliably.
A good statistical filter will collect data about both good and bad words. If you look at the list in msg #1, then you'll find that at least 90% of those words will hardly ever appear in any legitimate message sent to me, which means they get a spammy score in the database.

It's not good enough to fill a message with random words. The spammer would have to fill it with words that have a high probablility of appearing in legitimate messages to each individual recipient. Doing this is neither logically nor technically manageable. Even tuning their messages to positive words common to some largish organisation would probably be too much effort for a spammer who wants to make money.


 3:43 pm on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was surprised by the figures suggesting 60% mail is spam.. I guess someone else must be getting my share.

Which has me wondering if there is any estimate as to how many spammers there are. The few stories I've read of those who do battle, suggest there are only a handful of massive bulk spammers.


 4:56 pm on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

i think my mum is getting your share of spam..mine too..and everyone elses...on an average day she will get 4 emails from friends, and almost 200 junk ones that norton antispam has to get rid of....even with norton, it is still a huge waste of time, and some still get through


 5:13 pm on Mar 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Maybe your band needs a mother?
mother@ yourdomain might help her.

Certainly I put my lack of spam down to that few people know its there. One of the biggest perks of having my own domain is that I can create any address I want and rotate them if needs be.

My experiences of Yahoo & Hotmail are that they quickly get found. Curiously the moment I stopped paying for POP mail my Yahoo inbox received even more mail..

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