By: John Michael PierobonJohn Michael Pierobon is an Internet consultant based in Fort Lauderdale.
I was talking with my mother the other day, and she was complaining about all the junk mail she gets. I showed empathy by telling that not only do I also get lots of junk mail, but I also get lots of "spam", or junk e-mail. So, that gave me the idea for this column.
Spam is unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) or unsolicited bulk e-mail (UBE).
The origin of the term "spam" comes from a Monty Python routine where one of the actors says "spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam" ad nauseam. It was the gratuitous repetition of the word that coined the term. Spam has nothing to do with SPAM, the canned meat from Hormel.
Spam is annoying and it is very bad "netiquette". (Netiquette is Internet etiquette.) Spam not only clutters people's mail boxes, but it also creates congestion on the "Information Super Highway". Spam does not discriminate. Spam gets sent to anyone, and most of the spam that does get sent is to announce pornographic sites or get rich schemes.
Because spam does not discriminate your children could receive UCE enticing them to visit an X-rated site.
There are easy to write programs to filter through volumes of Internet traffic for e-mail addresses. Spammers compile huge mailing lists by scanning chat rooms and newsgroups looking for e-mail addresses. They also go through the password files of ISP.
When a spammer wants to send out an UCE, he will forge the origin, or the sender's name, domain name and IP address. Good spammers are extremely difficult to track down. Very good spammers are impossible to track down. But, I know of one ISP who did track down a spammer and got her cellular telephone number. So when people wrote to this ISP to complain, they responded by stating they had track down the spammer and gave out her cellular telephone.
When you get spammed do NOT reply to the sender because what you are doing is confirming to the spammer that the e-mail address they have for you is valid. A confirmed valid e-mail address is more valuable to them, and you invite them to spam you again and again.
Instead, what you should do is examine the mail header for the sender and how it was relayed to you. It may have a valid domain name, and you can check if it is valid by going to the WHOIS database of the InterNIC (http://rs.internic.net). The WHOIS database will tell you if the domain name is valid, and who are the people in charge of that domain along with their address, telephone and fax number.
Because spammers are good and forge their identity, you may find the name to be bogus. There is now a naming convention to send your complaints about spam to "abuse" at the implicated domain. For example: "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Most of the large ISP will send you back an automated response, and that is the last you will hear from them. This is frustrating, but that is why spammers are still in business. However, I have found that when pressure is applied to the ISP hosting the spammers, they do respond partly because UCE is a violation of the contract with their backbone provider. So, also send a copy of the offensive spam to large backbone providers such as PSI, UUNET, and Cable & Wireless.
© 1999 - 2006 John Michael Pierobon