Oct 14, 2008

Anti Spam - Spamming the spammers

Did you know that 95 percent of all email sent in 2007 was spam? Yes, that is a fact.

In spite of all the legislation, the spammers keep marching on. Filling up mailboxes, overloading servers and clogging networks worldwide, the spam keeps coming. So how do you get back at them? That's right, spam them back.

AuditMyPc, an online security testing site, has put up a tool that they hope will give spammers a large dose of their own medicine. Anti Spam is basically a web-page that fills itself with fake email addresses every time it is viewed. The way the developers hope to get it working is like this:

1. Spam-bots, which scour the Web, looking for email addresses to spam, land on the Anti Spam page.
2. They find loads of email addresses (all of them fake, by the way), and promptly adds all of them to their databases.
3. Finally, they follow the last link on the page, which links to itself, thereby loading the Anti Spam page with a fresh list of fake email addresses. The process repeats, filling the databases with enough worthless addresses to make it inefficient to spam.

That sounds like a really interesting concept, and I for one would love to see it work. But would it really? The Buzz Out Loud crew makes some good observations on the idea. Adding fake email addresses to the spam database surely would take down the conversion ratio, but still might not bring down the absolute hits the spammers get. As far as they are concerned, it is all automated and wouldn't matter much.

ISPs could see a flurry of attempts to send emails to non-existent accounts, and that could help them identify potential spammers more easily and blacklist them. This is all assuming that spammers don't blacklist the Anti Spam page first and let their bots go round in circles, feeding on fake addresses.

AuditMyPc encourages the public to link to their Anti Spam page, so that bots are more likely to find it and collect the bogus addresses. As far as I can tell, their appeal seems to be working. Type in 'anti spam' on Google and guess what is the first organic result? If the company decides to make an actual anti-spam product of its own in the future or even take ads for them, they surely won't be needing any search ads. The Anti Spam page may not take down too many spambots, but it won't hurt their site traffic.

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