The Inquirer-Home

Spam management pays off

Comcast kills off the Zombies
Thu Jul 01 2004, 15:30
ACTS OF THE US Congress couldn't do it. Threats from Microsoft couldn't do it. Ad hoc organisations like SpamHaus, the RBL, and so on, couldn't do it. But Comcast is starting to do it: slow down spam. How they do it is ingenious.

It doesn't involve anything more than blocking port 25 (SMTP) on their zombie-ridden, badware-infested client's network to block zombie spam. Who'd've thought something so simple could slow down spam so dramatically?

Some amusing, anecdotal evidence is in order. My Yahoo! account, started when I started to write for INQ, got spam almost immediately. There were earnest (and occasionally highly incensed) observations and questions sent to my column's email address. But INQ, like most every IP address on the Internet, is regularly scanned for valid email addresses. If you click on mine, you'll note that there's a handy way to send me a reply email. This also embeds my email address into the page, and harvesting apps go merrily through sites-- like INQ and most all of them-- and digest email addresses. These addresses in turn, are sold, rented, stolen, and so on by happy spammers.

Broadband-connected, zombie-driven spamming machines spew miles of spam per. It takes very little programming knowledge to create apps that send mail; most of it involves understanding how telnet and SMTP work. There's a good chance, I'd say 25% (100% if you don't use firewall or other security software) that the machine you're using right now has a zombie or bits of spyware running on it right now-- if you're using Windows. The likelihood of other browsers and operating systems being infected are much, much smaller but it happens nonetheless. My dear sweet mother's machine, when it was noticed that her firewall app had long expired, had no less than 320 different chunks of malware, not counting over 10,000 tracking cookies (all but a 1000 or so sent by an over-zealous website). Indeed my brother had been surfing on the machine without latex. He's been spanked.

So if you've been surfing unprotected, you're in trouble. At some point not chosen by you, your infected machine will wake up, vomit a wake of spam, then go to sleep again. The users of Comcast's broadband cable, a largely hapless lot (and no, they're by no means not the only bunch), are madly infected with such detritus, and therefore are unwitting mad spammer allies. Comcast,reportedly has shown a marked decrease in overall volume by blocking the mail sending port of their clientele known to have patterns that portend the awoken spamming dead. It's all too simple. What we'd wish they would do is to simply shut off an offending client's cable modem until the broadband client has taken responsibility for themselves and cleansed their machines of the stupidware. This, of course, is expecting too much from people that have trouble finding the ON switch on their computers.

It would be too easy to ask people to go to here or here and have them download AdAware 6.0 or SpyBot Search-and-Destroy 1.3 respectively. After all, they're free (but please license or donate to pay penance for your misdeeds). It might be too easy to ask Brighthouse, BT, Comcast, and every other major broadband provider on earth to send a free CD to their users that auto-installs these, then wipes the doo-doo off their clientele's zombie infested carcasses-- then charge them for the service.

But we must indeed laud this attempt by Comcast. Others should follow suit, as the portion of spam versus desired mail is now a ratio cited by some as 75:1 junk versus wanted correspondence. The competitiveness between mail providers that has expanded email box storage for their clientele will be rapidly filled with junk unless they, too, stop spam at the source-- us. During the time that I've written this, seven messages have appeared. To whom it may concern - I don't want your PhD for life experience, your Cialis, three more inches, Chinese printed circuit boards, a new way to make money on eBay, your CD containing all the dirt on my relatives, or your filthy pictures of teens doing very strange things on webcam. Go back under the rock where you came from.

Would someone please forward this:

Dear Yahoo,

This is what happens when you write about spammers; your email box fills up to the brim almost immediately. Please bear with me while I try to find a new Delete key; I wore the old one out.

Best,

Ryan_the_Hunter at yahoo.co.uk µ

 

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