About SPAM

Wednesday, May 7, 20082comments

What is spam?

Spam is flooding the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it. Most spam is commercial advertising, often for dubious products, get-rich-quick schemes, or quasi-legal services. Spam costs the sender very little to send -- most of the costs are paid for by the recipient or the carriers rather than by the sender.

Email spam targets individual users with direct mail messages. Email spam lists are often created by scanning Usenet postings, stealing Internet mailing lists, or searching the Web for addresses. Email spams typically cost users money out-of-pocket to receive. Many people - anyone with measured phone service - read or receive their mail while the meter is running, so to speak. Spam costs them additional money. On top of that, it costs money for ISPs and online services to transmit spam, and these costs are transmitted directly to subscribers.

The most commonly seen spam includes the following:

  • Phishing scams, a very popular and dangerous form of email fraud
  • Foreign bank scams or advance fee fraud schemes
  • Pyramid schemes, including multilevel marketing (MLM)<
  • Other "Get Rich Quick" or "Make Money Fast" (MMF) schemes
  • Quack health products and remedies
  • Ads for pornographic web sites
  • Offers of software for collecting email addresses and sending UCE
  • Offers of bulk emailing services for sending UCE
  • Chain letters (for more information, see About chain mail)
  • Illegally pirated software ("Warez")

How spammers operate

Unlike junk paper mail, email spam costs the sender very little to send; almost all of the costs are paid by the recipient and the carriers, because the spammer does not have to pay for all the Internet bandwidth tied up in the delivery of the spam. Because they have no incentive to be efficient in their mass emailing, spammers usually don't put much effort into verifying email addresses; they use automatic programs called bots to scour the web and Usenet newsgroups, collecting addresses, or buy them in bulk from other companies. Spammers also guess at addresses using name generation programs, and even send thousands of messages that bounce. In order to get a single response, spammers are willing to send out a thousand email messages or ten thousand; it makes very little difference to them.

History of Internet "spam"

The earliest documented spam was a message advertising the availability of a new model of Digital Equipment Corporation computers sent to 393 recipients on ARPANET in 1978, by Gary Thuerk. The term "spam" for this practice had not yet been applied.

Spamming had been practiced as a prank by participants in multi-user dungeon games, to fill their rivals' accounts with unwanted electronic junk.[17]. The first known electronic chain letter, titled Make Money Fast, was released in 1988.

The first major commercial spam incident started on March 5, 1994, when a husband and wife team of lawyers, Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, began using bulk Usenet posting to advertise immigration law services. The incident was commonly termed the "Green Card spam", after the subject line of the postings. Defiant in the face of widespread condemnation, the attorneys claimed their detractors were hypocrites or "zealouts", claimed they had a free speech right to send unwanted commercial messages, and labeled their opponents "anti-commerce radicals." The couple wrote a controversial book entitled How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway.

Later that year a poster operating under the alias Serdar Argic posted antagonistic messages denying the Armenian Genocide to tens of thousands of Usenet discussions that had been searched for the word Turkey.

Within a few years, the focus of spamming (and antispam efforts) moved chiefly to e-mail, where it remains today. Arguably, the aggressive email spamming by a number of high-profile spammers such Sanford Wallace of Cyber Promotions in the mid-to-late 1990s contributed to making spam predominantly an email phenomenon in the public mind.

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