The SPAM WAR Manifesto

My blog has only been in existence about one week, and already it’s been spammed 12 times by one company. This company have tried to post to some of my blog entries which have NO connection to their business. They may use Microsoft Vista, but their product has nothing to do with my views on it. They may use Meebo in some blogs, but again it has nothing to do with instructions on how to set up Meebo.

Online Pharmacy | onlinepharmacy@noprescription.com | noprescriptiondrugstore.com | IP: 205.211.216.53

They are gracious enough to include the words “this is a promotional message if you feel offended by it please delete it.” Really? Well, this is a personal blog, and I DO feel offended by it, so please stop spamming it. Of course; whether you’re offended or not is irrelevant, they will still feel justified in doing a drive by and spamming their “promotional message” anywhere they like. The latest was on April 8th, 7:55 PM GMT

I have been thinking over the last couple of days about how to fight this, and had decided to suggest that anyone who wants to kill spam should get several free email accounts from GMail, Yahoo, FSMail, AIM etc and spam the companies who benefit from spam. Spammers use botnets to spam from, they fake headers etc. This means that there will be no email account called hjgjgfjhdsag@ghdsjgfjds.com, yet this is apparently where it came from. They fake the mail servers paths too….so backtracking is very difficult. Often when you do backtrack, it turns out to be some poor sucker on Windows who has no idea the porn site he visited in Internet Explorer has allowed a programs to be installed on his PC and is now being used as a zombie.

What you CAN look at; is who benefits. You get 15 emails all from different addresses all pointing you to one URL…who makes the money if you’re stupid enough to click on that link and buy from them? Right, that website. They want a respectable front where they can deny the spam campaign. They also have “sales” emails, along with “customer services” etc.

This is where you use the same subject and body details, and spam THOSE email addresses. Send them 100 for every 1 you receive. Overload their mail servers every time they check for incoming mail. After all, they WANT your incoming sales orders don’t they? They have NO respect for your time or bandwidth, why should you have any for theirs? They continue regardless of the fact that users HATE spam.

After a while with some luck they’ll be too busy emptying their OWN inboxes of spam that they won’t have time to send another round of spam out to us. To add to this I’d suggest signing those emails up for lots of online fanzines, newsletters etc…..making sure to tick the “yes I’d love to get promo material from third parties” and “yes, inform me as often as possible of all new services and products” boxes. The point here is to teach the spammers a lesson. That if they want to flood us, we CAN fight back until they choose to stop.

I’ve created my own SPAM WAR email list of shame so the spambots can harvest some of their OWN emails, add them to the list and spam THEMSELVES……and each other. To help this effect going I’d ask everyone to do something similar.

Of course these free email accounts will at some point be closed for spamming, which is why you want to create accounts for that purpose only. I’d suggest avoiding using any title which gives away your intent, like ihatespam@yahoo.com, it may be blocked…..which kinda defeats the purpose. I’d also suggest a more casual rate of fire so that the scripts running these free email services don’t pick you up as a potential spammer. When one account is closed, simply create another.

I googled “spam war” and found that two anti-spam sites were forced to close due to the spammers taking offense at someone daring to fight back and bringing down the servers with a DOS attack……from a huge botnet. This has led me to rethink my initial plans. I did however find a page which is more detailed, more measured and will probably get more results than my initial ideas. I’ve decided to post the whole lot below to help spread the message and encourage the fight back.

Everything below the horizontal line is copied directly from http://www.webweasel.com/spamwar.htm I have modified the content for display purposes only. It is now justified, with lists etc…..I have changed NONE of it’s content.


THE SPAMWAR MANIFESTO

Unsolicited Commercial Email, Spam, is crippling the effectiveness of the Internet. Roughly 80% of the mail arriving in a typical email users’ mailbox is spam. This is an incredible drain on users, involving millions of dollars of lost time for businesses, frustration for users old and new, and clogging system bandwidth and disk space.

Technology has not solved the spam problem, nor is it likely to. Filtering technology has been ineffective. Government will not enforce the laws that have been enacted until citizens start to demand action; so far, they have done very little. And the UCE industry has demonstrated a blatant disregard for the law of the land and common decency.

Therefore, we, the users of the Internet, are declaring war on spam. This war will continue until the UCE industry obeys the existing laws. We demand that the UCE industry:

  1. Provide functional opt out procedures,
  2. Stop forging return addresses,
  3. Label advertisements in the subject line,
  4. Comply immediately with ‘do not contact’ requests.

The FTC has announced that it is ‘collecting’ spam. You can refer spam to uce@ftc.gov. Since the government refuses to take action to enforce the laws, we will send every piece of spam in our inboxes to the FTC until they take positive action. There is a small underground movement of users who are already doing this on a case by case basis. The goal of SPAMWAR is to amplify this and give it a focused strategic goal. We will conduct this war email by email, making the lives of the spammers hellish until they surrender unconditionally. It is time for the users to take back the Internet.

SPAMWAR TACTICAL MANUAL

Rather than attempting to deal with the situation passively by simply attempting to filter spam, we will take massive non-violent action to clog the inboxes of the spammers.

Every spam solicitation needs some kind of contact point. The goal of spamwar is to identify that contact point and send them email. Lots of email. Just like they do to us. Each time you read your email, sort the messages you want from the spam. Move the letters you want to save into appropriate folders, and the spam into the trash, but don’t delete the trash yet. Go through each message in your trash.

Although the reply addresses are forged in 90% of all spam, it is a useful exercise to probe them. A technique called the ‘dead cat bounce’ is useful. Send an email titled ‘You are an asshole and your cat is dead’ with an empty body to each spam, being sure to BCC yourself. Write down the address of each dead cat email or cut and paste them into a temporary document.

If the email address is functional, you will get the BCC but not an ‘undeliverable email’. Cross off the ones from the list which bounce.

Next, sort out the commercially bulk mailed spams from the amateurs. The amateurs will typically be text messages only, often poorly spelled and formatted. The commercial ones will have lots of color, images, and elaborate (but bogus) unsubscribe links. Focus on the high-gloss spam, as they are the worst offenders who occupy the commanding heights of spamwar.

If they have any kind of web presence, there will be some evidence in the email. After all, the point of spam is to motivate you to visit some website. In some cases this will be the website of the spammer, or a temporary one set up to service the spam responses. Note the domain name of this web presence. Sometimes the domain will have a sub-domain, such as marketer23.spammers.com. Strip off the ‘marketer23.’ portion.

Now take a look at the amateurs. These will often be scams like work at home, chain letters, the old Nigerian bank account scam, pyramid or Ponzi schemes, and so on. Since these are patently illegal for the most part, forward all of them to the FTC spam collection:uce@ftc.comand be sure to cc: the sender.

Next for the active response portion of SPAMWAR.

Once you have some valid email addresses, and the domain names of some of the responsible parties, obtain a copy of the great literary classic Moby Dick. This is a one-megabyte file which is available widely on the Net, courtesy of the Gutenberg Project. The file is small enough so that it can be attached and sent over a dial up line in a few minutes, but big enough to be quite obnoxious if it arrives in someone’s inbox. Do everyone a favor and strip the ‘Gutenberg Project’ fine print out of the file before sending it. I have posted a clean version of this file at http://www.webweasel.com/moby.txt.

Attach a copy of Moby to an email and start CCing each of the non-bounced email addresses. Do NOT BCC yourself unless you want to clog your own mailbox. Give the email an innocuous sounding subject line, such as ‘Proposal for your consideration‘ or ‘Here’s the info you requested‘. After all they do this to us, so turnaround is fair game.

Let’s say spammers.com is the domain of one of the UCE websites. CC the following addresses at spammers.com:

root@spammers.com
postmaster@spammers.com
admin@spammers.com
sysadmin@spammers.com
spam@spammers.com
abuse@spammers.com
sales@spammers.com
marketing@spammers.com

Hit send. Repeat as required.

Some things to note:

  1. Use creatively abusive subject lines for ‘dead cat bounce’, but do not make any actionable threats. Note the difference between ‘your cat is dead’, and ‘I’ll kill your cat’. The first is acceptable (if distressing), the second could lead to legal action. Other good subject lines would be ‘Your wife/husband/spouse is ugly’ ‘Your children are morons’ ‘Your wife/husband/spouse is having an affair’, and so on. The point is to create mental distress for the recipient, as payback for the mental distress their UCE causes to consumers.

  2. If the spam only has a link to a remove page with a fill-in text field, fill in ‘uce@ftc.gov’ as your email. This will put the FTC spam collection email into their database.

  3. If the spam links to a fill-in form (such as ‘get an insurance quote’), fill the form in with enough bogus data to fool the script (such as ‘Joe Satan at 666 Evil Street’), and then give ‘uce@ftc.gov’ as your email.

  4. Often times the website will have contact information, including email addresses. Do a dead cat bounce on them and if they check out, Moby them.

  5. If you can locate the website for the marketer, but there is no contact information, go to the Network Solutions WHOIS database (http://www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois) and look up the contact information for the domain. Then dead cat bounce the email addresses given (these are usually, but not always valid, since in order to set up the domain you have to have a valid email address). Dead cat bounce and Moby all of them.

  6. Sometimes spammers give a Web address only as an IP address (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx). You can resolve this by using a good reverse domain lookup service such as http://www.amnesi.com/hostinfo/ipinfo.jhtml. This will give you the actual domain name and the contact info, along with email addresses which you can then Moby.

  7. If you have a company name for the spammer, type it into Google. Even if the company doesn’t give a direct hit, there may be pages which tell you more information about the company. If there is a direct hit, and they have a web page with contact information, Moby them.

(email) bomb Nigeria!

We’ve all seen these, that is if you’ve had email for more than five minutes. Or own a fax machine. And it’s been spotlighted in the media countless times. The ‘Nigeran’ scam is just an old reworking of an age-old confidence game. However it must work occasionally, probably because there is always someone who just got online, opens their email for the very first time and gets this astonishing letter promising filthy lucre.

The pitiful thing is not so much that the scam works occasionally, but that the Nigerians (or whoever is sending out these scam-spams) are so clueless about spam. It’s like they have a big ’email-bomb me’ sign attached to their asses.

They generally get a free account at a second-rate mail service. These accounts have a very small mailbox size limit (a few megabytes). In my experience, three or four copies of moby.txt will result in that wonderful ‘mailbox full’ autoreply.

Why stop there? Just forward a message to ‘abuse@’ the mail provider with a copy of the scam-spam, with a short note at the top to the effect ‘Please shut down {email address} before some sap gets taken in‘. I find that this usually gets honored by the mail provider.

So before the ‘Nigerian’ gets around to unclogging their shiny new account, all mail will be bounced from it, and then it gets shut down. It takes about five minutes of your time, and it could save someone with low resistance to Jedi mind tricks their life savings.

Also, it needs to be said that if you’re Nigerian or live in Nigeria, please accept my deepest sympathy. It must be rough to live in a country with such an image problem, unlike certain superpowers I could mention….

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10 Responses to “The SPAM WAR Manifesto”

  1. MJ Says:

    Revenge is sweet to u huh? 🙂

  2. Dirk Gently Says:

    It’s not about revenge really…..it’s about letting them know we’re not interested in their “promotional messages”. Until they have their business day’s taken up with emptying spam they may not “get” that concept. When they are swamped with it…it may change their opinions about sending it in the first place.

    The more sites which have a list of shame which helps feed the inevitable spambot their OWN email addresses, the more they will have to keep removing their own email addresses from the spam list…..the scripts will keep adding them. This is also a drain on their time.

    It does not discriminate….it harvests. By including the regulators email address, they will spam the regulators……..which is a great way to say “hey look at me, I’m a spammer…….what are ya gonna do?”

  3. Nimish Batra Says:

    Dude … Svlad

    Akismet is an awesome thing.

    Keep marking the shitty things as “spam” and it’ll learn.

    Took one month of pain for me.

    Also see what options suit you in “comment moderation”

    Tweak them as much as you can.

  4. Dirk Gently Says:

    There is a fine line between censorship and moderating. I only reject if I feel I have to. At one point I was tempted to let them through as it would add another copy of the “Mailto” tag for the spambots to harvest. I decided against it……..but started the list of shame instead.

  5. Nimish Batra Says:

    Censorship doesn’t enter into it.

    I see all unsolicited marketing on my personal blog as spam.

    I mark it as such. My friends do the same.

    Boom. Akismet learns and that particular happy camper can no longer say anything at my blog.

    But, to each his own I guess.

  6. Dirk Gently Says:

    I found another site which fits within this topic. I’ve added the link to my Blogroll too. It’s useful if you live in the UK.

    http://www.scotchspam.org.uk/

  7. Nimish Batra Says:

    Nope. India. 😀

    I’d much rather have better user-education and better spam filtering. But then again, I have a very different perspective of the internet.

  8. Dirk Gently Says:

    I agree on the user education 100%. There will always be new people coming online who don’t know the score, a small proportion will be caught out……everyone who’s been online for a while knows spam when they see it.

    The spammers need to get more and more creating to trick us…..phishing sites are a prime example. I’ve had lots of “Your new password” emails…..from companies I’ve never heard of.

  9. solotune Says:

    Hey thanks for the advice and I have enjoyed some of your entries. Am a fan of the simpsons myself.:)

  10. lightcontrast Says:

    Hmmm…I will try this. Since August, the amount of spam a week has increased. And the lists of useless sites has increased a lot.


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