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Repurposing Anti-Spam Tools For Detecting Mutations In HIV

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the metaphors-are-like-geese-in-a-cider-factor dept.

Microsoft 67

chicksdaddy writes "Security researchers often use language and metaphors from the natural world to describe problems in the virtual world. (Consider 'virus,' and 'worm.') Now it turns out that the links may be more than just rhetoric. Microsoft Researchers say that tools they developed to detect spammers' efforts to avoid anti-spam filters were also great at spotting mutations in the HIV virus. A report from Microsoft Research in honor of World AIDS Day yesterday described how Microsoft Researchers David Heckerman and Jonathan Carlson were called upon to help AIDS researchers analyze data about how the human immune system attacks the HIV virus. To do so, they turned to tools and algorithms developed at Microsoft to detect and block spam e-mail in the company's Hotmail, Outlook and Exchange e-mail products."

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Never mind that! (4, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#38251900)

The really big news here is - Slashdot has finally ditched the Gates "Borg" icon!

Re:Never mind that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252002)

Grr, I liked that thing.

Re:Never mind that! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252042)

Really for a joke that was 'kinda' funny back in 1992.... It needed to go a long time ago...

Re:Never mind that! (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252060)

They ditched it weeks ago dude.

Re:Never mind that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252156)

Maybe it's for the best. Just imagine how smug Bill must look about now...

Re:Never mind that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254848)

Cyborg Gates has been replaced by Zombie Jobs.

Maybe the "natural world" (4, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38251904)

is also a created simulation. If so, then of course viruses in both computers and nature will share common characteristics.

BUDDHA: All is illusion
NEO: There is no spoon

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252004)

Apparently - single copy of virus per single machine model of current computer viruses do not create mutation rates good enough to construct self-modifying computer viruses. Maybe we need the rise of parallel processor with core count in thousands in every consumer PC, each running as well self modifying copy of a simple core operating system together implementing the services we commonly expect from an OS.

It would be "freaking awesome", as the contemporary youth puts it.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252016)

You need to put My Big TOE down and go outside and get some fresh simulated air.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (3, Funny)

cultiv8 (1660093) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252030)

MICROSOFT: We have an API for that

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (2)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254144)

... But it's undocumented.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256148)

It was undocumented 20 years ago.

Nowadays it's documented but deprecated, and has been that was for the last 15 years. But everyone's still using it, anyway.

That said, we're rolling out a new framework that'll have a brand new API to do the same exact thing. But don't worry, the old one is still supported. So are the three preceding new ones. ~

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (-1, Troll)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256278)

And we'll give our Office team access to these future undocumented APIs, so they don't have to compete on a field that's level. Not that it matters: putting glyphs on a page was a solved problem in 1990 and ever since we're getting them to move to new versions with incompatible file formats and by moving their buttons. I can't believe they're so retarded they're actually still buying this schtick. It's good money though.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256340)

When I say "we", I actually mean it. See the profile.

And trust me on this: if any developer in Office (or other product division) tries to use an undocumented Windows API, they'll have someone from legal knocking on their door real soon. It's a very, very big no-no in the company. I know, because it's actually part of things like code reviews and such. Simply put, no-one wants to be the guy responsible for another multibillion dollar fine in EU or other places which actually take such things seriously. For the same reason, a lot of previously undocumented protocols are now documented here [] and/or here [] .

So, no, you don't have to worry about MS apps unfairly competing with third-party ones by using some undocumented magical "make it better" APIs these days.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (-1, Troll)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256422)

Well it's nice we have your personal word on that, since you guys as a team are historically reliable in this regard.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256468)

You'd be surprised how getting sued and losing can turn things around. One of the reasons why I've grown to believe that regulation of businesses is beneficial is because I witnessed the effects of it first-hand, and they are much bigger than many people on /. imagine. It just takes time for the changes to have an effect outside, especially when you start with a monopoly as entrenched as that.

You are, of course, free to disbelieve anything I tell you. But keep in mind that I post here as a fellow geek, not as an employee (I've had a /. account for years before going to work at MS); and, no, you don't get wired up to the Borg when you sign up.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (-1, Troll)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256510)

I'm glad you found a good dollar fountain. We all need that. But don't use that to come up in here and try to claim things we know aren't true. You know better than that.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256542)

I'm sorry that the facts that I have to share are not to your liking. I don't have any other, on this subject - I can only state that which I've seen. If you feel that they threaten your deeply held beliefs, feel free to ignore them, and lets get back to meaningful discussions on less flamebaity topics.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (0)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256702)

As a parting gift: It's probably OK to try to dick with other people to push your memes. Don't mess around with symbolset and this would probably have gone better for you. I figured you'd have known that by now though. You've seen this go down a hundred times at least and the end was always the same. I don't have any sockpuppets - this is really me. You don't have to reply to comments.

BTW: Flohawks has openings. I'd look into that before I went your way. It's honest work.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (-1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256482)

Doesn't it bother you just a little bit that I, some random poster on a blog can point to the the precise executive email [] that defined your response nearly 20 years ago?

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256516)

I haven't read that email before. Having seen it now, in what way did it "define my response"? It's rather vaguely worded, and the only thing I can gather from it is that they admit that MS has an image problem - but it's something any random guy in the industry knows. Can you be more specific in your reference?

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (-1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#38256558)

If you can't parse that email and get of it what I said you'll be of little use in your current position. It requires a certain minimum ability to connect dots. It bears directly on our prior discussion and is topical, so no off-topic mods for me. Of course, willingness to understand the lesson despite incentives that contraindicate understanding might be a challenge. But here the truth is plainly writ if you'll read it.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38258960)

Shouldn't you be at GNU/Church about now?

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (4, Interesting)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252568)

If not a simulation, would you believe a hologram:

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (2)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252598)

I would believe a holographic doctor.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38253082)

Okay then. When are you open source cocksuckers gonna get a working version of Adblock for my goddamned brain? If I hear "4G Wonderland" one more time I'm going to start doing drive-bys on T-Mobile stores.

Re:Maybe the "natural world" (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 2 years ago | (#38255380)

Stephen Wolfram: is that you?

News at 11: Bayes classifiers classify stuff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38251962)


Insightful (4, Insightful)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252046)

Come on gang, this is pretty cool.

To re-adapt the tech that picks up Nigerian Scams and send it to pick up HIV strains is pretty neat. I sure as **** didn't see that app.

Re:Insightful (5, Funny)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252098)

Personally I find some of those nigerian spams awesome. I got one that claimed that the first Kenyan on the moon was trapped in orbit and they needed money to build a rescue vehicle.

Re:Insightful (3, Interesting)

JSG (82708) | more than 2 years ago | (#38253276)

Yes, I've seen some classics too.

For a while I actually deliberately allowed stuff from the "Lads from Nigeria" through and put in its own inbox for everyone at the firm to laugh over. I created a second specially trained SA Bayesian classifier in front of the main filter to siphon this stuff off.

It was trained on a hand crafted corpus gleaned from a mailbox of stuff behind a sacrificial Exim daemon on its own connection that strangely runs really slow but not too slow to put off the spammers.

SA can be made to work in very strange ways. Perhaps I ought to get out more ...


Re:Insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254766)

"Cool" with a tinge of "irony"...

How many rednecks would have predicted Africans could save Africans? Beyond the non-PC jokes, beyond the soft-bigotry of condescending foreign AID(S) packages, and beyond the half-hearted efforts of Big Pharma, it's the Internet that is saving the word.

One otherwise-unencountered paradigm of information-ology at a time.

Lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252062)

Thank god microsoft have not taken the Apple approach.
Lawsuit in 3-2-1....

But Microsoft doesn't detect spam?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252072)

Once my university decided to switch to MS as their email provider, the span in my inbox has gone up. They don't even have to use the trick of changing spellings, I get lots of junk about penis enlargement, hot Russian girls, and Viagra every day. What I do NOT get are emails from the registrar, the university police, and the Dean. Those all go to the junk folder. I suggest they take whatever data they get from these MS researchers and do the opposite.

Re:But Microsoft doesn't detect spam?! (2)

armanox (826486) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252260)

I'd say your university didn't setup Exchange correctly then.

Re:But Microsoft doesn't detect spam?! (2)

JSG (82708) | more than 2 years ago | (#38253190)

Have you ever tried it (I can't speak for 2010)? The Intelligent Message Filter is dreadful.

You pretty much only get two knobs to turn: 0-10 for either block or quarantine. On the switches front you get to use someone else's service ie DNSBLs or you can (naively) fill in blocked address lists.

That's why have been doing a roaring trade (10 odd years) in tiny Gentoo (VMs nowadays) machines with Exim 'n' Spam Assassin + Clam AV doing the stuff that Exchange just can't.

So yes his Uni probably did cock up the config of Exch but if they turn the knobs up too far he wont see any mail out side of his Junk folder. Catch 22 matey


waste of money (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252132)

they should be curing cancer, not curing a fag disease.

Re:waste of money (0)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252440)

You're probably just trolling, but it isn't just a 'fag disease'.

Re:waste of money (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38254054)

Sorry, Nigger and Faggot disease.

Re:waste of money (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252448)

What's sad is, people still think like that. It's a shame that few people know where AIDS came from. Short version, it's a result of overpopulation. AIDS has always existed, but when population density was lower, it wasn't transmitted between humans. Go ahead, look it up. See where AIDS actually came from. It most definitely was not divine intervention, in retribution for homosexuality. If that were so, it would have killed off all the queers, and left everyone else alone, right?

Re:waste of money (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#38253490)

Why not both?

If the programmer is lazy enough, he'll write one tool that does both.

Wait, what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252200)

They are using Microsoft's algorithms for this? Their horrible spam filters were the reason I abandoned Hotmail nearly a decade ago.

Who gives a shit (-1, Troll)

hifagssuckmycock (2523976) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252210)

Who gives a flying fuck? Suck my dick like Penn State.

I Read the Full Article (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252226)

It would have been nice if some sort of example of how these things (spam and virual mutations) are alike was actually presented. The full article is no more useful than the abstract posted here.

Holy mixed metaphors Batman! (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252252)

Spam filters, viruses. Yeah, I can see the connection there. Now, if they were doing quality control on canned meat products....

Assuming Microsoft uses some form of naive Bayesian classifier to do spam filtering like everyone else does, their spam filtering technology was in use by a lot of other people for a lot of other things before it came to be a spam filter anyway.

Re:Holy mixed metaphors Batman! (1)

Tyrannosaur (2485772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254350)

yes! The Bayesian filter (if I recall popularized by paul graham) is amazing for spam. And did not originate there... Bayesian tools have been here a long long time

Re:Holy mixed metaphors Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38259000)

If they're so damn great, why do I so much damn spam?

Re:Holy mixed metaphors Batman! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38257124)

Microsoft (think the FOPE product) catches the overwhelming majority of spam (98%) using IP address blocking. Most of the remaining spam is caught using long lists of regular expressions managed by humans. There is only a little bit of Bayesian, etc after those two techniques because Microsoft's product cannot scale to handle the algorithmic load (or so the sales person told me). I would not expect researchers to be crafting regular expressions or mapping blocklists to protein sequences. Maybe they are, but the article makes it sound like something else.

ok how many.. (0)

s0litaire (1205168) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252394)

... of you guys have made a lame "Blue screen of death" joke?

Re:ok how many.. (-1, Troll)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252460)

Blue screens are lame, so how could a blue screen joke not be lame? Real operating systems don't crash and burn when a device stops working. In a real operating system, the worst thing that happens is, you get kicked to a console, where you can start collecting data, to see why your desktop environment quit working. Unless, of course, the device that stopped working was your local electric plant . . .

Re:ok how many.. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255024)

Hey buddy look how great this OS is. Remember that deadline your asshole boss gave you? Remember that report you were typing frantically in OpenOffice? Remember that half written email in Thunderbird? Well guess what ?! As usual.. the buggy piece of crap called just died on your ass but THANK FUCKING GOD you now have the chance to type some crap you know nothing about into a text mode interface. (Lucky you !) so that.. um.. you get your report back? uh.. no that's gone... you get to recover your email? uh... sorry that vanished when X died too. Wait.. hmm.. hey look on the bright side.. you have spinning cubes inside your window manager. That counts for something right? right? :D

Sounds great (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252422)

But they should call google about the spam detecting algorithm...

If hotmail's spam filter is what they have to show for, thanks but I'll keep using condoms.

I'd rather die of AIDS... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38252430)

I'd rather die of AIDS then use some treatment developed using Microsoft's closed source algorithms.

Re:I'd rather die of AIDS... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255806)

You don't need to worry about either, Richard.

The ever escalating war... (1)

Commontwist (2452418) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252880)

So the war on spam and computer viruses has become as or more complex than figuring out how HIV mutates? How soon before it reaches cancer-level? lol

Look the other way (2)

ripdajacker (1167101) | more than 2 years ago | (#38252910)

Maybe they should look at viruses and the immune system when designing spam filters.

Noooo! Hotmail filtering sucks bad!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38253264)

They picked the wrong service! Hotmail allows soooo much spam through it's hard to believe they're filtering at all.

They should have gone with Google's anti-spam algorithms instead. I never get spam in my inbox, ever. But, my Hotmail inbox is full of it.

Re:Noooo! Hotmail filtering sucks bad!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38253730)

Pro tip: it's not spam when you sign yourself up for mail from your favorite chicks with dicks website.

Re:Noooo! Hotmail filtering sucks bad!!!! (1)

randyleepublic (1286320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38262106)

Google's anti-spam is pretty good but is, of course, not perfect. Then where it really bites the big one is when you (the user) tries to manually tune it. The ui is beyond retarded. Also it's pretty bad about false positives. Attention Google analysts: If I send someone an email, I probably don't think they are a spammer! Duh...

HIV is not the cause of 'AIDS'... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38253760)

... and none of the idiot Slashdotters even know what 'AIDS' means. How embarrassing. You parrot whatever the T.V. tells you, making out that you are so 'caring' and 'kind', for refusing to THINK about alternative hypotheses - you know, ones that actually accurately predict the spread (or lack thereof) of 'AIDS'...

Where to begin? How can one even hope to reach such arrogant idiots, who can't even begin to question what they've been told by the controlled media, in spite of the fact that all the evidence proves it's wrong?

Here's a clue: the number of people with STDs has been rising year upon year for DECADES, yet we don't see a massive increase in so-called 'AIDS' deaths among any groups in the Western world. What happened to the 'deadly' virus, that was killing gay men in the tens of thousands every year, in the U.S. alone?

Before you (stupidly) say 'it's the drugs that are keeping them alive', try reading the article 'The Trouble with Nevirapine'. (I won't hold my breath waiting for any of you to actually READ it, that would be too much like hard work. Just get on with vilifying me, and defending the 'Party meme' which you have been brainwashed with. How pathetic. And you actually think you're intelligent.)

Re:HIV is not the cause of 'AIDS'... (1)

Tyrannosaur (2485772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38254368)

thanks for linking to the article. now i will read it and consider the points your angry anonymous comment instead of just blowing it off as a stupid angry internet comment.

Re:HIV is not the cause of 'AIDS'... (1)

randyleepublic (1286320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38262198)

The linked paper does a wonderful job of exposing the greasy circle jerk that passes for oversight and regulation of big pharma, but it debunks two drugs, AZT and Nevirapine, out of how many? How does that prove that AIDS is not caused by HIV?

Re:HIV is not the cause of 'AIDS'... (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 2 years ago | (#38267962)

Wow, your angry rant is fascinating and displays a complete lack of understanding of what you're talking about.

HIV = Human Immunodeficiency Virus, like rotavirus or rhinovirus or cytoplasmic polyhedrosis virus, is the name we give to the retrovirus entity with a very narrow and specific set of viral proteins, very specific physical characteristics, and the unique reverse transcriptase enzyme method used by viral entities in the same family to unbind host cell DNA and copy in their own RNA strand.

AIDS = Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, like the common cold or diarrhea, it is a set of symptoms and physiological changes to the body, characterized by the drop in CD4+ T cells below the threshold that confers cellular immunity to pathogens. (I can't remember the exact number this takes, look it up.)

So, could AIDS be caused by something else in the body that targets the CD4+T cells in the immune system? Yes, that is possible. However, no research to date has shown any vector that attacks our immune system so specifically.

However, decades of research has shown that a majority of persons infected with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus that attacks a specific set of helper T-cells in the body's immune system, will develop... are you read for this... ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME or AIDS, a set of symptoms and changes to the body characterized by the drop in CD4+T cells below a certain threshold.

So, is that simple enough for you? Do I need to get out the crayons and a special sheet of science paper and draw you pretty pictures of googly-eyed virus phospholipids shooting little DNA guns at similarly googly-eyed CD4+T cells?

Though, that probably won't help. One of the worst things that the internet has brought the world of science has been the ease with which crackpot conspiracy theories can be distributed to a gullible public that is either too stupid, lazy, or unconcerned to look it up for themselves. Rather than believe the people who spend their entire lives dealing with deadly pathogens for little money and even less recognition, the people who have sunk small fortunes in to an education system full of ideologues who often do require you to parrot their preferred theories in order to get a degree thereby depriving you of some of the best opportunities for research, the people who already have to deal with a whole raft of ignorant fucksticks with MBAs who spout such winners as "I'm not sure we have the budget for basic research after spending so much on administrator bonuses" and "Can't you pick a more profitable topic for study"; they believe the mouth-foaming twonk who spouts utter bullshit, anonymously, on the fucking internet.

Demonize you? Gladly. You deserve it. My hope for you sir is that you develop a disease that your tin-foil hat wearing friends convince you is from chem trails, or fluoridated water, or government mind control lasers on the moon and you spend your entire estate on quack doctors who prescribe drinking your own urine and sell you ten thousand dollar machines chock full of magnets and blinky lights, and make sit under a pyramid shaped tent while a large Turkish man gives you an enema with a ten horse-power pressure washer. After all of this, you die in a fashion most agonizing and painful, while fully aware that a seventy-nine cent dose of antibiotics from some "evil big pharma" company with their "science" and their "research" that you distrust so much would have knocked that thing out in a couple of days.

Newsflash: Abstractions are Useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38255446)

"Hashing is being used in as diverse fields as oil drilling and pet retail stores". "Regexps show a deep link between creative accounting and scuba diving".

C'mon, man. Pattern matching is pattern matching. Abstraction is the staple of our profession. Sheesh.

stone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38263556)

stone crusher []
coal mill []
Chancador []
Machacadora []
mobile crusher []

ssdf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38263654)

stone crusher []
coal mill []
Chancador []
Machacadora []
mobile crusher []

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