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Spamming Becoming Financially Infeasible

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the let-the-market-decide dept.

Security 212

itwbennett writes "Making money in spam isn't as easy as it used to be. 'It's not something financially feasible for anyone to even consider,' said Robert Soloway, who in his heyday made $20,000/day as a spammer. 'Spam — the Internet's original sin — dropped for the first time ever at the end of 2010,' writes IDG News Service's Robert McMillan. 'In September, Cisco System's IronPort group was tracking 300 billion spam messages per day. By April, the volume had shrunk to 34 billion per day, a remarkable decline.' Soloway says spam filters have become too good."

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I don’t buy it (5, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623846)

It may have hit a slump, but it’ll be back.

People en-masse haven’t gotten any smarter. There are still enough people who will fall for scams and do business with the kind of people who advertise via spam. Some good tech is currently making an effective barrier between the idiots and the spammers, but the idiots are still there, so the profitability is still there. Give the bad guys a little time. They’ll come up with new ways of getting around our current filters.

Of course the other theory is that spam has become “less interesting” in light of other new and exciting ways of screwing with people. Once those dry up though, I think the guys with the suits will fall back on classic reliable spam to make their money.

Re:I don’t buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36623902)

nature always has a way of creating a better idiot all the time.

Re:I don’t buy it (3, Insightful)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624122)

My theory is that the idiots are using Facebook, and to some extent other social/instant media so that's where the spam is moving. (not saying that all Facebook users are idiots, in fact some of my more friendly than not acquaintances are Facebook users, just saying that most idiots are Facebook users).

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624222)

One of the benefits about FB is that everyone is on your white list. I'd still rather get email than FB email so I can keep them for future reference.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

socz (1057222) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623918)

You're right, spam will come back once other avenues of attack are no longer of viable. There are still several ways I can think of that spam can easily get past the filters (I was inspired by the company I work for - they miss some spam that is very questionably border line legit). As long as the spammers don't know think of those things we're good! Spam filters have come a long way!

Re:I don’t buy it (2)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624382)

I think you have it backwards. Other avenues of attack will come back now that spam is no longer viable. As far as knowing how to get past filters, the thing is that not all filters are the same. Maybe your company's filter had a hole, but not everyone uses the same techniques. Also, good filters look at more than content. Greylisting, for example, cuts out 80% of spam simply because successful spamming depends on incredibly high volumes and performing the retries required by greylisting is just not feasible. Hell, if you simply block unauthenticated SMTP access to all broadband IPs, you can cut out the majority of SPAM. Bulk of spam depends on botnets. You just can't push the necessary amount of spam through legit channels on a consistent basis. If you abuse someone else's system, they will shut you out. And by the time you build up your own resources to delivery that kind of volume, you'll be blacklisted.

People with unreliable ISP-provided email (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624716)

Hell, if you simply block unauthenticated SMTP access to all broadband IPs, you can cut out the majority of SPAM.

Say somebody is behind an ISP that fails to provide its own reliable SMTP server to its home subscribers. He can't run his own mail server because it'd be confused with a spam zombie. Nor can he switch to a different ISP without either moving or lowering his monthly transfer cap by a factor of ten. Which mail server do you recommend for this person?

Re:People with unreliable ISP-provided email (2)

gnarfel (1135055) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624876)

GMail? SMTP Relay services? It's nearly impossible to actually run your own mail server now-a-days anyways, unless you want to jump through all the hoops required (DNS records, etc). I personally had a need for it not too long ago, I had a connection that was intermittent at best but we needed local e-mail as well. We simply set up our own server on the LAN and paid for an amazon ec2 instance that simply forwarded all incoming and outgoing mail for us.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623962)

Of course the other theory is that spam has become “less interesting” in light of other new and exciting ways of screwing with people. Once those dry up though, I think the guys with the suits will fall back on classic reliable spam to make their money.

Like most get-rich-quick industries, this just means its become more profitable to get out of the game and sell people kits to spam their way to fabulous over-night wealth. Not that its anything new in itself; that scam [google.com] has been going on almost as long as spam itself.

Re:I don’t buy it (3, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624016)

it's humorous, but it's just a market change.

social engineering, and pfishing are probably a whole lot more "financially feasible", much more results for less effort.

I mean would profits from info gleaned via a SQL injection be really considered a "hack" these days if it was a script kiddie?

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624138)

My thoughts exactly. Why bother with the iffy strategy of getting people to buy your crap when you can steal their credit card and just steal their money directly?

Re:I don’t buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624458)

Shut up and take my money!

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

itsenrique (846636) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624704)

Because there is a lot more at risk when you're committing straight up theft, vs soliciting them to buy your shoddy merchandise.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624752)

Pretty easy to go from CC -> untrackable currencies in a variety of forms. So not really.

Re:I don’t buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624870)

Spammers don't sell the products they advertise, they are just illegal advertisers. Most of the ads in spam are legit, and you will actually get the product if you buy it. Spammers are paid to send out spam by using affiliate programs where they get a certain amount for each sale one by them. So the money is legit and not stolen.

Re:I don’t buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624596)

Let's see: Cost=$0, profit >$1. Based on that math, I think it will continue forever.

Re:I don’t buy it (2)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624026)

The people using the internet might be just as dumb, but who said the majority of the spam is getting through to these people anymore?

You have to keep in mind that the bright people who've made most of today's everyday technology possible (to those who don't appreciate this point, maybe teach yourself general relativity prior the next time you poke your TomTom) are also writing spam filters on the server side too nowadays (with great financial incentive for the providers via reduced overhead), not just the client side.

I remember in this asshole's "heyday" when I had to manually block send-from addresses in hotmail, and now only the most grammatically well-crafted emails get through, and are still reported fishy.

Re:I don’t buy it (1, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624064)

It's not that spamming is not lucrative. It's that they keep redefining the definition of "spam."

"Spam" back in the day? People trying to sell things. Sometimes legit, sometimes not. That kind of crap IS starting to die down now, though not as much as you might think. But to be legit you have to run your own servers, have your own IPs, and so you can be shut down rather quickly.

The new "Spam" is adding people to every fucking mailing list they can buy, and scraping for email addresses everywhere. "Business Papers: ERP, CRM, Phone Systems", and so on and so forth keep popping up. Advertising crap for various places trying to make a vacation destination of themselves. A lot of it filtering through linkfarms and pay-per-click referral sites that actually go to legit businesses.

And then there's the political crap, mostly from right-wing shit-for-brains groups like the Tea Tardiers, spamming out screeds about how "if you don't think what we think and hate those brownskinned people then Yer Not A Real Amurrikkan!" Stuff that doesn't look like the traditional "hey I'm selling viagra" spam, but still annoys the crap out of people who don't want it.

And then there's all the phishing crap, which they're not defining as "spam." That stuff runs on botnets.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624260)

"if you don't think what we think and hate those brownskinned people then Yer Not A Real Amurrikkan!"

I would love to have someone say that to me in person. I wonder what their response would be when informed that brownskinned Mexicans are from America.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624314)

And then there's the political crap, mostly from right-wing shit-for-brains groups like the Tea Tardiers, spamming out screeds about how "if you don't think what we think and hate those brownskinned people then Yer Not A Real Amurrikkan!" Stuff that doesn't look like the traditional "hey I'm selling viagra" spam, but still annoys the crap out of people who don't want it.

There goes your posts credibility. You could have left out the political statement, you know.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624666)

It's a shame that people feel they need to propagate this type of ignorant rhetoric.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

itsenrique (846636) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624828)

He may be identified with the right wing. I just get stuff asking for more money from the prez's crew. I don't see how this blows his credibility. He's not saying much about politics unless your in the tea party, but that's just a vocal, and easy to make fun of minority. He's really talking about a shift in the kind of spam we're seeing overall, and he seems as credible as anyone else telling anecdotal stories on slashdot. Thanks, have a good one.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624354)

Considering that one of the two favorite candidate of the Tea Party participants is Herman Caine, I wonder what group you are talking about that wants people to hate "those brownskinned people". Or maybe you have formed your opinion of the tea parties based on the reporting of people who always vote for the political party that wrote the Jim Crow laws and formed the KKK.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624750)

Considering that one of the two favorite candidate of the Tea Party participants is Herman Caine,

And considering he said he would want any muslim person in his administration, and only muslims, to take a loyalty oath, that says all you need to know about him and the Tea Party.

For reference [theatlantic.com]

Of course he retracted his statement, two months later, but he said what he said so obviously he means it.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624632)

The new "Spam" is adding people to every fucking mailing list they can buy, and scraping for email addresses everywhere.

Microsoft is a huge offender in this regard, and unlike most of the other legitimate spammers, they make it impossible to delist (have to sign up for a live account, adjust spam settings, and they still ignore them).

spamming out screeds about how "if you don't think what we think and hate those brownskinned people then Yer Not A Real Amurrikkan!"

A) possibly watch what lists you sign up for
and B) you just went from "insightful" to "deranged ranting". Ive never heard anyone on any side of the spectrum say anything resembling that. I've certainly heard attacks on irresponsible spending from the "tea party", but if you want to conflate that with racism, carry on i suppose.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624756)

If you signed up for Chrome OS, even Google did this with a set of services under the Gilt Group umbrella. It took a threat to file with my attorney general before they'd delete my information. I got all kinds of kickback on how they couldn't delete my information, but they'd disable it. Of course, they shared it with everyone in their "network" which was actually what prompted me to pursue getting it actually deleted. Took about five emails over the span of two weeks to get someone to admit that they could and will delete my info. eHarmony is just as bad with their magazine offer. I never signed up, but I started getting them and I still (after 6 months) cannot get them to stop sending me that crap even after demanding a refund and cancellation of account.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624650)

Just wanted to add-- theres some kind of irony in accusing others of racism while simultaneously ridiculing them for the way they speak (presumably based on their geographic background).

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624094)

There are still enough people who will fall for scams and do business with the kind of people who advertise via spam.

You don't even need that, really. You just need people with something to sell. You're right, though, that'll always be the case.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624124)

People en-masse haven’t gotten any smarter.

No, but filters have. If people don't get the spam, they can't fall for it.

but the idiots are still there, so the profitability is still there. Give the bad guys a little time. They’ll come up with new ways of getting around our current filters.

Well, they haven't so far. Unlike other areas like viruses and trojans, spam filters have pretty consistently stayed one step ahead of spammers once people took spam filtering seriously.. I remember maybe 4 years ago there were a couple months where spammers figured out how to embed their messages in images in such a way as to pass filters, but that was fixed and since then filters have been so good that I haven't seen a single spam message in my gmail inbox in months. I did get a couple messages through poorly maintained mailing lists. So I just unsubscribed from the lists.

Sure, someone is going to find a way to slip by, but it definitly won't last long and it definitely won't be all spammers. Seriously, there's no reason why anyone should still be receiving SPAM these days. We've won.

Of course the other theory is that spam has become “less interesting” in light of other new and exciting ways of screwing with people. Once those dry up though, I think the guys with the suits will fall back on classic reliable spam to make their money.

The guys with the suits are using "legit" channels to screw with us. THere's just no way to make spam look professional these days. It will continue to be the domain of the gray market scumbags, not the suits.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624136)

It's like when the cops chase the hookers off of one corner, they just move to the next...

countertrolling & the trolltalk.com crew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624782)

Cheat the moderation system - here's how they downmod others, and this is where countertrolling explains what he's doing while he trolls others (to his fellow trolltalk.com friends):

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2245866&cid=36491652 [slashdot.org]

And, here's where countertrolling's "troll mechanics" for downmodding others is explained in detail by someone that got sick of it happening:

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2271908&cid=36579618 [slashdot.org]

As far as bogus up moderations, the trolltalk.com bunch (tomhudson, countertrolling, & others) collectively "team up" to upmod one another, in teams, as favors to one another.

(Talk about low, and bogus!)

---

countertrolling & the trolltalk.com crew

(ON THEIR MOD UPS:)

Mod him up & cheat the moderation system - here's how they downmod others (here is where countertrolling explains what he's doing while he trolls others to his fellow trolltalk.com friends):

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2245866&cid=36491652 [slashdot.org]

And, here's where his "troll mechanics" for downmodding others is explained in detail by someone that got sick of it happening:

http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2271908&cid=36579618 [slashdot.org]

As far as bogus up moderations, the trolltalk.com bunch (tomhudson, countertrolling, & others) collectively "team up" to upmod one another, in teams, as favors to one another.

(Talk about low, and bogus!)

---

In fact, here's what he says about it, why he does it, and to all of us here:

"What the skiddies here don't understand is that I don't give a shit about dumbass 'karma' on the internet.. I'm here for the jollies with nothing to lose or fight for.. watching them destroy their world.. They can go absolutely nuts as far as I'm concerned.. It's nothing but pure entertainment (and data points) for me and mine... Tragicomedy is probably the best word I can think of to describe it" - by countertrolling (1585477) on Thursday June 30, @10:26AM (#36622502) Journal

QUOTED VERBATIM FROM -> http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2281808&cid=36622502 [slashdot.org]

Sounds like a sick individual to me.

Re:I don’t buy it (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624206)

Smarter as in intelligence, no. But people are more Internet-savvy than they used to be. And young people meet the spam barrage before they have a life savings to give to a Nigerian prince. Just like people have gotten quite used to the horseless carriages (read: cars), even though I doubt our IQ is that different from 100 years ago.

Re:I don’t buy it (3, Insightful)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624480)

People en-masse haven’t gotten any smarter.

People haven't gotten any smarter, but technology has.

Outlook has junk mail filtering built-in. Gmail has spam filtering built-in. Pretty much every mail server out there has some kind of spam filtering available. Pretty much every endpoint protection package has a spam filter. There are tons of different filtering systems available for purchase.

Relatively little spam actually makes it through to the user's inbox anymore. So there's less for the stupid/gullible folks to click on.

Give the bad guys a little time. They’ll come up with new ways of getting around our current filters.

Well, of course they will... But the good guys are going to keep developing new filters, too.

Of course the other theory is that spam has become “less interesting” in light of other new and exciting ways of screwing with people. Once those dry up though, I think the guys with the suits will fall back on classic reliable spam to make their money.

Spammers go wherever the market is. Right now the market is on the social networks. More people are communicating more often on things like Facebook than through simple SMTP. So there's less profit to be had in spamming SMTP servers.

Sure, if SMTP suddenly becomes crazy-popular again you'll see the spammers head back in that direction... But all our existing filters will still be there to curtail that crap.

the profitability is still there.

I don't know about that...

Sure, it's probably pretty cheap to send out a few thousand emails... But how many of those actually make it in front of somebody's eyes? And how many of those actually get read? And how many of those are actually clicked-on?

The real money these days is in malware. Dropping bots on computers and grabbing their credentials for various websites... Or sending out some kind of fake antivirus scanner that scares people into paying $50 to clean up the fake infection... Or using those bots to hack some big, important website...

I really don't know that there's all that much profit to be made in sending out spam these days.

Re:I don't buy it (1)

mikeru22 (1222780) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624658)

----->>>>Cl.ick.Here 4.FREE.V1aGrA ! ! -------

This has been the strategy for a while (5, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623850)

People have been working on increasing the cost and decreasing the reward from spamming for some time now. From discouraging people from buying from spam messages to grey listing, to shutting down botnets, all of that has been largely for the purposes of making it less attractive to spam.

I'm just a bit surprised that it's starting to have an effect, it's hard to compete with basically free server capacity and bandwidth.

Re:This has been the strategy for a while (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624072)

I suspect that it's not so much that these techniques are effective as that they are largely concentrated on email. This means that they drive the relative cost of email spam up and make message board and put-your-face-in-the-book spam a lot more attractive. The latter, of course, is designed to send targeted spam and for a small fee will actively target your spam for you to the most gullible, sorry, appropriate audience.

Re:This has been the strategy for a while (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624218)

I'm just a bit surprised that it's starting to have an effect, it's hard to compete with basically free server capacity and bandwidth.

It still takes resources to secure those resources. Botnets are not free. Lists are not free. Spammer time is not free.

I'm surprised it has taken this long. There's no reason why the average person should even be getting spam in their inbox at all. If you're still getting spam, you need a new email provider. My gmail address is published all over the goddamn place, including usenet of all places, and I haven't seen spam in months. Even if the cost of sending me spam is next to nothing, it is still wasted.

Re:This has been the strategy for a while (1)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624410)

I think your success story about spam is actually Gmail, which seems to be better than a lot of COTS and OSS spam filters. It's amazing how well you can filter out spam based on that broad of a user base's opinion of what is spam. On the other hand, I'm running a well known commercial email product with an equally well known spam filter at work, and it isn't blocking spam nearly as well.

Re:This has been the strategy for a while (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624490)

There's no reason why the average person should even be getting spam in their inbox at all.

I still get spam all the time, but you're correct, it's not botnet type spam, it's from legit companies with ethical lapses (Linkedin most recently) and small time web scrapers working in my industry.

Damn!! Spam = ~4yrs in the Federal Pen? (1)

killfixx (148785) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623852)

That's significant! 4 years in a federal prison (ass rape, etc...) for what amounts to a computer crime.

Definitely not hitting "replay all" ever again!!

Re:Damn!! Spam = ~4yrs in the Federal Pen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624280)

I don't remember asking for this message. /me rubs chin.

Re:Damn!! Spam = ~4yrs in the Federal Pen? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624394)

My thought was exactly the opposite: When I saw that TFS had a quotation from the guy "Why is he still in a state capable of speech?" was what lept immediately to mind.

Spammers should be serving life sentences, shackled to the production lines and making the real thing...

Re:Damn!! Spam = ~4yrs in the Federal Pen? (2)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624772)

Oh the irony. The spammer must regret having sent all those "penis enlargement" ads when landing in prison.

WOO HOO (0)

DFurno2003 (739807) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623860)

First Spam!

Of course its financially feasible. (2)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623882)

Not everyone needs $20,000 a day. Average income in China for example is only a couple thousand dollars US. Costs are lower over sea and profits can be lower while still maintaining financial feasibility.

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (2)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624086)

Not if the profits are negative. The thing is, spammers are already operating on a really thin profit margin; so even a small rise in the cost of spamming could have a devastating effect.

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624170)

That's be a shame...

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

memyselfandeye (1849868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624188)

No kidding. Could have fooled me about the decrease in SPAM.

I run my own MTA for my vanity domain. I check spam twice, once before accept to reject outright SPAM and once after accept to take into account user preferences. My aggressive ACL checks against forged and black addresses, I have an up to date spamassassin and custom rules, and use greylisting services and such. SPAM to my mailboxes has not declined by the massive amount Cisco is reporting. It has gown decreased slightly, about 7% since January, but no where near that 7x decrease. I wonder if this isn't just Cisco trying to sell some kind of spam filtering appliance.

Here's a perfect example of something that cropped up last week: "Pi ckOutYo urPr ef er enceTa bl etsEs sen ti alsWe bsto re" (Pick Out Your Preference Tablets Essentials Webstore) Writing a regex pattern to match those broken words and not tag things like eBay and iPod was a freaking PITA.

That $20 a day is a very good job in China. That's $7k a year (spam is a 24/7 business after all) compared to the $3k you'd get working in Foxconn [telegraph.co.uk] , for example.

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624556)

I suggest you save yourself the hassle and just host your mail domain with Google. It is free and they have excellent filters and support IMAP. While it is neat to tinker with filters and see the tactics first hand, it s really not worth your time.

That $20 a day is a very good job in China. That's $7k a year (spam is a 24/7 business after all) compared to the $3k you'd get working in Foxconn [telegraph.co.uk], for example.

Even $20 is pretty optimistic. You're certainly not going to make that as a casual spammer.

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624560)

"Pi ckOutYo urPr ef er enceTa bl etsEs sen ti alsWe bsto re" (Pick Out Your Preference Tablets Essentials Webstore)

Here's the thing, I don't even initially understand what they're trying to sell with that message. It takes a few seconds of thought to parse the words, but before that time my internal mental gibberish recognition filter has kicked in, and my brain is already saying "gibberish == spam, hit delete".

I suppose if someone is desperate to figure out every word that's emailed to them, they'd spend the time, but what kind of person responds?

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

jimicus (737525) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624840)

Here's the thing, I don't even initially understand what they're trying to sell with that message. It takes a few seconds of thought to parse the words, but before that time my internal mental gibberish recognition filter has kicked in, and my brain is already saying "gibberish == spam, hit delete".

I suppose if someone is desperate to figure out every word that's emailed to them, they'd spend the time, but what kind of person responds?

I heard a rumour some time ago - don't know how true it is - that they aren't selling anything. The whole thing is essentially a big scam, which works like this:

  1. Company advertises a "way to make money fast". What the victim is buying is an application to send bulk email, a list of email addresses and a list of companies willing to dropship generic viagra. The list of email addresses may or may not be any good, ditto the list of companies - I daresay many have already gone to the wall or aren't even prepared to acknowledge anyone asking them to dropship viagra.
  2. Victim falls for it. Installs software and start sending out spam. They probably don't make any money at all; if they get any orders in those orders as likely as not aren't honoured by the dropshipper so they don't carry the business out for very long, but it's long enough for others to notice the spam and sure as eggs is eggs, at least one or two others think "My goodness, that must work or they wouldn't do it." People who think that are setting themselves up to be the next victim.
  3. The only person making a profit is the person selling the bulk mail app and the list of email addresses

(Seriously, slashcode? No ordered list support?)

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624198)

i'd be inclined to agree but i think the most effective spammers are the ones that know colloquial english dialects, since they are the most difficult to detect by old ladies and pencil dicks. chinese english speaking spammers are probably most effective spamming canton or hong kong than america, or even say, india. i could be wrong.

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624574)

Have you seen the content of spam? They're not F 001ing Any0n 3!! !!

Re:Of course its financially feasible. (1)

Ectospheno (724239) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624624)

Part of the reason the average income in China is low is because 36% of the population makes less than $2 per day.

Next - Spam Filters become self-aware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36623896)

All hail our penis-enlarging Spam Filter overlords!

Good news, but... (1)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623910)

While this is great news, I really think that reducing the volume of physical spam needs to be a high priority as well. I get nothing but junk in my physical mailbox these days. Well, that and bills. I should have the option of automatically refusing anything sent to me that is addressed to 'Our friend at' or 'Resident'.

Re:Good news, but... (1)

thebian (1218280) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623994)

Don't forget the junk phone calls. They're the worst. Don't call lists are minimally effective.

Re:Good news, but... (1)

Octorian (14086) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624048)

And have exemptions for the types of calls that make up the majority of your junk call volume anyways.

Re:Good news, but... (1)

milbournosphere (1273186) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624324)

Yes, cold calls are a waste of my time and theirs. But the sheer volume of spam propping up the USPS and various printing companies just oozes waste. Waste of paper, waste of time, waste of money. Pretty much the only positive thing about spam is that it keeps somebody, somewhere, employed. I wonder just how much money goes into the junk mail business.

Re:Good news, but... (2, Interesting)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624758)

I've heard that 'spam' subsidizes the entire USPS. Without the revenue generated by 3rd class bulk rate, first class postage would probably be about $2 USD per letter (allegedly.) Thus spam keeps your letter carriers coming around every day, except Sundays.

Of course, that was several years ago. I've also heard that email has decimated the first class postage business, so the proportional subsidy is now probably much higher than that.

Re:Good news, but... (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624604)

The do not call listhas been extremely effective for me.

Re:Good news, but... (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624030)

I'm still surprised at all the scam commercials I see on tv, and am amazed they are still around, and haven't been persecuted (i.e. MyCleanPc which has been running for over a year now at least).

Re:Good news, but... (1)

memyselfandeye (1849868) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624288)

That is totally possible. For example, I will outright reject mail that is 99.9999% guaranteed spam (10 times the "spam score" threshold) before even attempting to deliver it to my user's mailbox. It doesn't save on bandwidth or anything, but it cuts down on SPAM by close to 60%.

Most mail admins aren't going to do that by default however, because there is that one in a million chance it isn't SPAM.

The war is still ongoing, and I don't care what the "Spam King" says. Spammers from the 3rd world are perfectly happy to keep it up knowing they are making twice as much as some guy laying it on the line in a crummy factory.

Re:Good news, but... (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624392)

At this point, the junk is subsidizing the bills. You don't like the bills, but you need to get them.

Unlike spam, the cost of sending a piece of mail is very high, and the Post Office is always broke. As long as they're going out, though, carrying the extra junk mail is a small marginal cost, and their willingness to carry the junk means that the price of stamps remains relatively low. (It astonishes me that you can send a letter thousands of miles in a day or two for less than half a buck.)

The "Resident" mail is designed to make it cheaper for them. It's not just that they want to reach somebody, though that's nice, too. It means the Post Office doesn't have to drag it back if refused, and they give the sender a break on that.

It's not great for the environment, obviously, but at least at the moment they're still required to offer mail service to everybody. It's less like spam and more like Google AdWords: irritating, but a bit less irritating if you know why it's there. If it wasn't, some good things would disappear.

Those good things may disappear anyway: more and more bills are switching online, and the Post Office may one day knuckle under. You'll probably spend more for a letter, but you'll get (and send) even less physical mail than you do now. That will probably happen only after they decide that internet service, like mail, is a right rather than a privilege.

Easier Ways (5, Insightful)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623922)

It's not that they've gone legit. It's that there are easier ways to scam people out of their money for higher profit returns, such as spear-phishing.

SPAM filters too good? (2, Informative)

ShavedOrangutan (1930630) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623958)

Yeah. Half my email ends up in a SPAM bucket. Thanks, you bastard. If I want someone to actually receive a message I have to send it through Facebook or SMS.

Re:SPAM filters too good? (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624180)

Tell your friends to stop talking about your penis and talking in MiX3d c4SE l33t 5p34k.

Or get a new spam filter? I may have one false positive a month on my GMail account.

Re:SPAM filters too good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624770)

Tell your friends to stop talking about your penis and talking in MiX3d c4SE l33t 5p34k.

Or get a new spam filter? I may have one false positive a month on my GMail account.

Do you actually check your spam folder that frequently?

Re:SPAM filters too good? (1)

SmilingBoy (686281) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624398)

Half my email ends up in a SPAM bucket.

What kind of e-mail service do you use? Or what kind of e-mails do you get?

I'm using Gmail, and maybe 2 or 3 spam emails per month get through to the inbox (of around 1000 spam emails per month in the spam folder). On top of that maybe 1 or 2 legit e-mails are classified as spam per month. With one exception from two years ago (flight confirmation e-mails), none of these false positives are critical; they are usually just advertising from companies I bought something at some point.

Re:SPAM filters too good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624452)

Never happens for me. Maybe you should work on your wording and/or spelling?

Re:SPAM filters too good? (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624672)

What service are you using? I know gmail's filter is good. I haven't lost any email that I'm aware of. Or do you mean the messages you're sending end up in spam buckets? Do you run your own MTA or something?

Stop Patting Yourself On The Back (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623978)

This has nothing to do with filters. I repeat, nothing. Filters are just an act of throwing good money after bad money, in the hopes that the good money will somehow stop the flow of the bad money. It's like saying that installing a new toilet in your house in the suburbs will stop homeless people from pissing on the street downtown.

Spam volume naturally rises and falls. Anytime someone congratulates themselves for a reduction in spam volume, they are proven wrong shortly later when it comes back up. If anything, a few of the prominent relays that were pushing spam out went down. More likely it's just been a slow week.

The only thing approaching reasonable in the summary is that indeed economic factors are at play. As I've said before, the only way to stop spam is with economic action; spam is so prevalent today because it is so cheap and profitable, which is why filtering will never lead to a permanent solution.

Re:Stop Patting Yourself On The Back (1)

SmilingBoy (686281) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624466)

But better filters have a big impact on the economics. If you cut down the number of spam e-mails that reach the inbox, you cut down the number of readers, which in turn cuts down the number of customers. This means lower or even negative profits.

Re:Stop Patting Yourself On The Back (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624676)

But better filters have a big impact on the economics.

No, they don't. Filters don't help, for several reasons:

  • Many users don't use filters anyways
  • The cost of sending an email is so trivial that it doesn't matter how many get through
  • The people most likely to use filters are the least likely to buy from spam anyways
  • The filters have to be maintained to be relevant, which only increases the cost of internet access for everyone

So in the end, filtering does not help the problem. Indeed an argument could be made that it makes it worse because we just end up throwing more resources into filtering techniques in the form of filter rule updates, new hardware, more storage, more power consumption, more bandwidth required, etc. Even if gmail is your only email, you are still paying for google to do it for you in one way or another.

cuts down the number of customers. This means lower or even negative profits

Extremely unlikely. As I mentioned the people who use filters are the least likely to buy anyways. Spam still gets through and the spammers keep working on ways to get around filters; its just an arms race that nobody can win.

The only solution that will ever be able to work is to deal with the economic factors behind the spam. Reduce the profitability of it by making it more difficult for the spammers to get paid. This can and has been done, and it works well. Filtering is a waste of time and resources by comparison because it will never bring about a permanent solution.

Re:Stop Patting Yourself On The Back (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624544)

Agreed. Is anyone surprised that the spam rate fell after the holiday season? I wonder what the normal decrease rate is for this time of year.

Re:Stop Patting Yourself On The Back (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624878)

You have no idea what you're talking about. Very few spammers of any volume use a single relay. Any known relay of spam gets blacklisted in a matter of hours. Bulk of spam is delivered through botnets and between greylisting and SPF, most of that spam doesn't even get through to end users. Less and and spam is getting to end users. Meanwhile, botnets don't come cheap. While this kind of decrease in such a short period of time probably isn't due solely to filtering, I would expect rates to begin a decline.

Filtering works and it is a great long term solution. It is the only solution. You can't stop people from responding to spam. All you can do is stop end users from getting the spam. This has the effect of increasing the cost of sending spam.

spam is so prevalent today because it is so cheap and profitable,

Read TFA. It USED TO BE cheap and profitable. Not so much anymore. The economic incentive is being removed by both saturation and filtering. Do you have any idea how much a decent botnet costs spammers? Gone are the days when you could simply run a couple MTAs and pump out your own spam with little to no cost.

On paper it might be down... (2)

toonces33 (841696) | more than 3 years ago | (#36623990)

but in my accounts it still comes in as a flood. Some of it is clearly malware coming in - others are questionable scans plus the usual Nigerian nonsense.

Re:On paper it might be down... (1)

yarnosh (2055818) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624898)

Get a new email provider. It is that simple. Gmail filter is awesome.

spam filters have become too good? (1)

feedayeen (1322473) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624028)

Yeah, can't see how that happens. Of course, if I were writing the ultimate spam filter the logic would go something along the lines of this when it receives a new message:

Has the guy emailed you before? (continue test if no)
Is there a reference to a site selling watches, drugs, or online degrees? (continue test if yes)
Is the site from a known legit source, based on popularity of the 'unspam' button for this user? (move to spam folder if no)

Poof, there goes 99% of all the spam that I've ever received in my life. If spammers want me to ever see their product, a product which I still will not be buying on an ethical basis of 'don't feed the spammers' and the financial advice of 'it's a scam', then they are really going to have to diversify their industries.

Paid Work? (0)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624040)

SPAM stands for server produced automatic mail, and is an old UNIX program from the 80's. I'm not sure anyone ever intended it to be a paid job, a UNIX server does it as a background task ...

Re:Paid Work? (2)

djdanlib (732853) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624108)

The term "spam" as used to represent junk e-mail wasn't originally an acronym. They took the term 'spam' from the classic Monty Python sketch about spam, because it represented something unwanted. "I don't like spam!"

Believe me, advertising people will jump on any chance they see to sell some more ads, and there's a sucker born every minute who will pay for those ads to be distributed.

Re:Paid Work? (1)

bryanp (160522) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624352)

The term "spam" as used to represent junk e-mail wasn't originally an acronym.

You mean it doesn't stand for Stuff Posing As Meat?

Depends on your definition (3, Informative)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624042)

It depends on your definition of "spam". By my definition, I get more spam than ever. The difference is that much of it is from legit companies who comply with the CAN-SPAM law. I can opt out, but I'm getting about 100 or more of them a day, and I can't spend all day opting out of every single one of them. It may be legal, but it's still spam, as far as I'm concerned.

Re:Depends on your definition (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624336)

Here's my solution using yahoo, they offer 500 aliases for you. Make a new one, sign up with the alias, redirect that to your "legal spam" folder. If you ever want to get rid of a company and its business partners and whoever else got their hands on that email, delete the alias. That is a very final opt-out. I wished I had done that long ago, because it saves you tons of spam. Of course you need to have a normal email as well and if others get that it can be spammed, but that problem would be a lot smaller.

Re:Depends on your definition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624882)

I have google mail on my own domain. All email on the domain goes to my one inbox. I give a different email address to each company, like yourcompany@mydomain.com. That way I know who's sharing my email address too.

Re:Depends on your definition (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624424)

Details: CAN-SPAM [wikipedia.org]

1 Weird Tip (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624096)

Why bother spamming when the cost of advertising threw normal services have gotten so cheap. Back in the spamming hay day the cost for a banner add was thousands of dollars Now it cost as little as a few bucks. Sure we have Add block tools but most of us don't use them. So the previous spammers are going the more legit route and making their adds to look like articles on CNN.

Re:1 Weird Tip (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624212)

Jellomizer is a bot.

Seriously, he nailed "Weird" and "hay day" but missed "through" and "Ad"?!? That ain't normal.

Re:1 Weird Tip (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624318)

Or they are just spamming CNN discussions. For a while there was some awful company that kept spamming the discussions for some work from home site with a convoluted URL to make it look it came from CNN or was hosted by CNN. The worst I ever saw it was one time when close to 1/3 of the messages were spam from this company.

Re:1 Weird Tip (1)

wintercolby (1117427) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624474)

Mod Parent up!

The best solution to SPAM has to also be the best solution to music/movie piracy. Adjust incentives until it is eliminated.

TeH GOOGLE DOING ITS DOOTY !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624112)

Go Teh Google, Go !!

Buy AAPL !!

Buy GOOG !!

Shit MSFT !!

Spam got decimated yet people here thinks spam won (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36624240)

It's amazing how knee-jerky /. has become.

Spam filters are *really* amazing. I'm using GMail (both for my personal email account and for my SMEs accounts) and I'm surprised at how few spam I get, despite my address being publicly available. Once in a while I see a spam in the spam folder and it's nearly always a spam.

It went from 300 billion spams to 34 billions: that's decimation and it's an amazing win. It means newcomers won't be able to make out any money from spam. It means the barrier to entry got higher.

And spam filters are becoming better and better: once a few GMail users tags a mail as spam, it's good game for the spammer. Most people won't even *see* the spam in their spam folder. Good game spammer.

If people here don't realize that the spam issue is way less scary than it used to be I think that it's because /. has become a place for M$ astroturfing fanbois. Dudes, trash Hotmail and install GMail. You'll see spam is a non-issue.

Thinking that the GMail spam filters "don't work" and is "money lost" is just plain stupid. There's no word to describe how stupidity and how disfunctional the brain cells of some posters here are. Do you realize the amount of time saved worldwide by services filtering out nearly every spam like GMail?

Got legit email blocked as spam? Move your SMEs to GMail and activate SPF on your "Google Apps for domain". Zero freakin' issue here.

People are still stuck thinking email servers are as shitty as in the 80s. It's not the case.

GMail is *VERY* effective at filtering out spam. If you've got emails being blocked, open a Google account for your domain and use Google to send your emails and activate SPF. Problem solved.

Re:Spam got decimated yet people here thinks spam (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624550)

because /. has become a place for M$ astroturfing fanbois. Dudes, trash Hotmail

I'd hardly consider myself a Microsoft fanboi, but Hotmail does a decent job of placing junk email in the Junk folder.

Big corps have stopped tolerating spam (3, Interesting)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624296)

Aren't most of the spam kings either dead, retired, or in jail at this point? I hear it's lonely in Boca Raton these days.

And wasn't there a wave of murders in the former Soviet Union when Microsoft and Time-Warner/AOL decided they were no longer going to ignore spammers? Bunch of free-lance software developers with connections to organized crime found dead, as I recall; the rumor was that the spam kings were eliminating people who knew too much.

Well, regardless of the truth or falsehood of any of these tales and rumors, if corporate pressure has made spamming unprofitable, I'm certainly not complaining. It's about time the f***ing invisible hand did something besides j***ng off US Congressmen.

Meta spammer (1)

drb226 (1938360) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624408)

So this guy, back in the 90s, spammed people to sell his spamming services. (insert yo dawg joke here)

The botnets are mining bitcoins instead (1)

ribuck (943217) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624492)

I thought the reduction in spam was just because some of the spammers are using their botnets to mine bitcoins instead.

Re:The botnets are mining bitcoins instead (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624778)

So Bitcoin is in fact usefull for something?!

This is terrible news! (2)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624504)

If this keeps up this could be the end of western society as we know it. I really hope the powers that be can come up with a reasonable bailout strategy for the spammers. They are to big to allow to fail.

Literally like blowing my nose. (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36624792)

Dealing with spam is like dealing with snot. Nothing you can do to stop it, but it's easy to dispose of.

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