Charlie's Diary

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Mon, 06 Mar 2006

Gone Phishing

Article withdrawn

Fri, 27 Jan 2006

Memo to spammer

(Please bear with me -- I promise I'll get off this hot-button soon.)

Dear spammer,

It has come to my attention that you may be labouring under some misapprehensions concerning my interests. In order to facilitate our harmonious communications in future, please make note of the following points:

  • Electronic mail is a written, hence literary, medium. The first (and probably only) part of your missive that I see is your name and the subject line. If the name and subject line are mis-spelled, ungrammatical, or otherwise unpleasing to the eye, why should I assume that the content might be otherwise? You are, I fear, destined to remain on the slushpile of life until you lern 2 spel.
  • Sadly, I do not speak or read Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Turkish, or German.
  • My genito-urinary system is in adequate working order, thanks.
  • I am grateful for your heart-felt proposal, but I'm already married. (See also, "do not speak language X, above.)
  • This may be an unfortunate cross-cultural mis-communication, but your kind offer to leave me "drowning in sperm" appears to fall foul of local anti-homicide laws.
  • I'd like to thank you for offering me the cheapest counterfeit pharmaceuticals on the market, but I already have a National Health Service annual pre-payment card that's good for everything I need.
  • When trying to convince me to log into PayPal via the link in your helpful email, you ought to bear in mind that PayPal's Chinese servers routinely remind me to do this every fifteen to twenty minutes. You're next in the queue.
  • The same goes for my Chase Manhattan online banking account, my Amazon account, my eBay account, my Halifax PLC account, and all the other online banking and retail merchant accounts that I don't have.
  • Dear Mr Berlusconi, thank you very much for your request for financial assistance in dealing with your current embarrassing situation. Alas, I regret to inform you that I wouldn't cross the road to piss on you if you were on fire. Next time you're feeling desperate, send the corporate jet. Then we'll talk.
  • If you've identified such a wonderful investment opportunity, why don't you invest in it instead of spending all your time blowing the secret by emailing the rest of the planet?
  • Your offer of cheap OEM software will be much more appealing to me if you specify whether it runs on OS/X, Linux, or PalmOS.
  • Underage donkey incest rape videos are a little recondite, don't you think? (Not to say recherche.)
  • Thank you,, for telling me that my account is about to expire and I need to change my password. As the system administrator who maintains the server, this came as quite a surprise to me.
  • Thank you for sending me your attachment. It would be easier for me to open it if it wasn't a Windows executable binary. (They don't run on powerbooks, you know.)
  • Dear Mr. Lee, I have no doubt that your factory in Shenzhou sells the cheapest and best brightly-coloured machine parts in all of China. Nevertheless, I have no current requirement for brightly-coloured machine parts. Perhaps you'd find it easier to make your quarterly sales quota if you visited a trade show instead of my inbox?
  • Thank you for reminding me of my recent lottery win. I'd be more willing to send you my bank account details if I recalled ever actually having entered the lottery in the first place.
  • I may have visited your website six years ago while researching a magazine article. However, you seem to have forgotten that I didn't buy your product, didn't check the box saying "spam me senseless" on your web information form, and my comments were so pungent that your lawyers threatened to sue me for violating the conventions on chemical warfare. It therefore should not come as a surprise to you to discover that I am not breathlessly waiting to hear about the latest upgrade to your product line.
  • Your attempts to convince me to help support your father's ailing mission in Nigeria would be more effective if I wasn't an atheist. (But I promise I'll pray for you.)


  • When you ask, CAN YOU BE SINCERE? the answer is, of course, no.

Yours sincerely,

Charles Stross

[Discuss spam]

posted at: 12:32 | path: /spam | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 27 Oct 2003

Speaking of spam

Quicktopic, which hosts the discussion system I use, have begun adding ads to the discussions. Intrusive ads. So I'm going to rig up a replacement as soon as I have the time and energy. This may involve moving my diary to Movable Type, now that the MT installation on this system is working smoothly.

posted at: 21:57 | path: /spam | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 11 May 2003

Lords Discover Spam

The following exchange in the House of Lords, which took place earlier this year, made it into the hallowed pages of Hansard, the official record of the proceedings of the British government:

Lord Renton: My Lords, will the Minister explain how it is that an inedible tinned food that lasted for ever and was supplied to those on active service can become an unsolicited e-mail, bearing in mind that some of us wish to be protected from having an e-mail?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am afraid that I have not been able to find out why the term "spam" is used, but that is the meaning it now has. It is a matter that should be taken very seriously because it not only clutters up computers but involves a great deal of very unpleasant advertising to do with easy credit, pornography and miracle diets. That is offensive to people, and we should try to reduce it.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I can help the Minister with the origin of the word. It comes from aficionados of Monty Python, and the famous song, "Spam, spam, spam, spam". It has been picked up by the Internet community and is used as a description of rubbish on the Internet.

More seriously, is the Minister aware that up to 85,000 pieces of unsolicited e-mail are received by the Parliamentary Communications Directorate each month? Will he join me in congratulating the directorate on its valiant efforts to filter out that menace, given that a high proportion of it is rubbish advertising from the United States and that some of it consists of profane material? The directorate is battling against a rising tide; the Government's assistance is needed in combating it.

It's nice to see that Their Lordships wish to protect us from spam because it consists of rubbish advertising from the United States -- and some of it is profane.

On a more serious note, Lord Sainsbury added: "We aim to implement by the end of October this year the privacy and electronic communications directive. This includes requirements that unsolicited e-mails may be sent to individuals only for the purpose of direct marketing with their prior consent, except where there is existing customer relationship between the sender and the addressee. Consultation on the draft regulations started on 27th March and closes on 19th June." And apparently there's a multilateral EU agreement on spam in the works. In a fit of sanity, their Lordships refrained from prescribing technical fixes: "we do not want to specify what ISPs must do, because different people require different levels of protection."

The exchange ended:

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, can the Minister think of a name for the enormous amount of unsolicited ordinary mail we receive?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, when I have a moment I shall bend my mind to that question.

Anyway, regardless of whether they achieve their goal of sanitizing the internet, we now have an answer to the very important question of whether the denizens of the House of Lords are familiar with Monty Python.

[ Link ] [ Discuss spam ]

posted at: 21:36 | path: /spam | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 02 Nov 2002

Pink stuff, again

Back on Wednesday I re-jigged my procmail scripts and spamassassin configuration so that all spam goes into a single mailbox (rather than just dumping some well-known offenders after reporting them to Vipul's Razor -- the "toner" spammer, for example).

I can now report that the charlie(at) account receives about one third of a megabyte of spam per day. About 20% of this is Korean or Chinese language spam, which isn't readable using my (text mode, UNIX-based) mailer. About another 20% of it is porn spam, and I'm getting maybe one Nigerian 419 scam come-on a day.

This is as nothing compared to the old account, which I've had since 1993, and which is now a dedicated spam trap -- any mail sent to me there will go straight into the Vipul's Razor database. I don't read it any more; the positive rate is roughly one piece of email per nine hundred spams. The volume of spam received by the Demon account is roughly the same as for my account, suggesting that both of them are well-saturated on the spammer mailing lists. Even though I subscribe to numerous mailing lists, the volume of spam on my main account exceeds the volume of legitimate email -- it exceeds the volume of incoming non-mailing-list mail by an order of magnitude.

An interesting observation is that I am now receiving >100Mb of spam per year, to each mail address. Spam is increasing by roughly 40% per year, compounded. If this is the case, then at this point in 2003 I can expect to be receiving around 300Mb/year of spam. With a doubling period of roughly 2 years -- the rate of increase of spam is itself increasing -- I can expect to be up to a gigabye/year of spam by 2005-06 (with maybe 100-200 spams per account per day), and would exceed the current bandwidth limitation on my current colocated server some time in 2012.

More worryingly, I maintain and provide POP3 email for a handful of family and friends -- maybe fifteen peope in total. Assuming that they, too, being getting spam (and I know for a fact that four of them have asked me to run spamassassin on their accounts, so this is a fair assumption) then as their names filter out into the spammer mailing lists I can expect to receive and process on the order of 1.5-2Gb of spam during the course of the next year. This volume considerably exceeds the data throughput from this blog, and is getting to within an order of magnitude of the web throughput on -- which is frightening, as antipope hosts some rather successful private websites, with monthly hits in the 25-50,000 range.

The CPU load incurred by running spamassassin isn't exactly a bundle of fun, either. This is a feeble, elderly machine, and spamassassin is a bit of a resource hog -- especially when it's running several thousand times a day and chews up virtual memory on the order of [a couple of megabytes plus] twice the size of the incoming mail each time. Sooner or later antipope will receive so much spam that its ability to function as a normal server will be impaired.

And this is before I get onto the subject of the asshole from Turkey who has been sending out spam -- in Turkish -- with my email address forged as the Sender: address. Last month I was fielding up to ten bounce messages a day. If I find them, they'll be hearing from my lawyer about a little case of defamation that I'll be bringing under Scots law. (First, however, I need to find an interpreter ...!)

This brief rant has been brought to you by the Society For Shooting Advertisers and the League Against Information Pollution.

[ Discuss spam ]

posted at: 12:34 | path: /spam | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 26 Oct 2002

Nigerian Spammers vs. Cthulhu

Here is a truly inspired exchange of email -- between a 419 fraudster from Nigeria ("Dr David Ehizojie, the principal partner of David, Ayo & Co. Chambers") who made the mistake of trying to obtain the bank account details of "Randolph Carter" ("an anthropological researcher with Miskatonic University, in Arkham").

Recently, in the course of researching the belief systems of some obscure Polynesian cultures, I came across some fragmentary references to a god "Cthulhu." After more research, I found scattered references to Cthulhu in Egyptian, Mongolian, and several African cultures. I would ask you, since you are from Nigeria, if you're familiar with the name Cthulhu, possibly pronounced something like "Kloo-loo." If you are, I would appreciate it if you could send me any information.

Hours of endless, if not aeons of deathless, fun ensue ...

[ Link ] [ Discuss spam ]

posted at: 19:32 | path: /spam | permanent link to this entry


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