Spam, with a Side of Gibberish

 
 
By Neil J. Rubenking  |  Posted 2003-06-30 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here's why spam may have random text in the subject line or the message body.

Can you tell me what the gibberish at the end of a spam message means? Is this code or just random filler to fool a filter?

J. Kiernan

We have found that random text added to the subject line (for example, "Get Rich Quick!!!! xuyrr") is more common. There are two possible purposes for this random text: It could be an internal marker for the spammer; if anybody responds to such a message, the specific add-on text might identify a particular mailing or campaign.

More likely, the purpose is to foil antispam tools that block specific message subjects. Spammongers also attempt to evade this type of blocking by misspelling words or inserting punctuation, as in "Regrow your Hair" or "Get out of D$E$B$T," both of which are actual subject lines from messages sent to the User to User mailbox (pctech@ziffdavis.com).

Gibberish within a message may have the same purpose. Smart spam-blocking utilities attempt to detect spam based on patterns of text in the message. If a substantial chunk of the message is gibberish that varies each time it is sent, the spam blocker may have a harder time identifying the message as junk. Of course, the next generation of spam blockers may include a gibberish detector!

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Neil J. Rubenking Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990 he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His 'User to User' column supplied readers with tips and solutions on using DOS and Windows, his technical columns clarified fine points in programming and operating systems, and his utility articles (over forty of them) provided both useful programs and examples of programming in Pascal, Visual Basic, and Delphi. Mr. Rubenking has also written seven books on DOS, Windows, and Pascal/Delphi programming, including PC Magazine DOS Batch File Lab Notes and the popular Delphi Programming for Dummies. In his current position as a PC Magazine Lead Analyst he evaluates and reports on client-side operating systems and security solutions such as firewalls, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and full security suites. He continues to answer questions for readers in the ongoing 'Solutions' column and in PC Magazine's discussion forums.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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