Most people dont think of fun and spam as residing in the same universe. But if you cant beat it, I say, why not have fun with it? OK, youre right; maybe I have been spending too much time in front of the computer lately. But if spam is going to show up despite my best efforts, I might as well make the best of it. So every day, I try to turn dealing with spam into a series of games.
Foreign language spam is always fun. These are my favorites among the messages that elude my filter. After all, if youre going to get spam anyway, isnt it better for the spam to be unreadable? And non-English spam is so easy to delete, since I can be certain it is not from anyone I know.
For example, I didnt learn until I read our story that those German-language messages I found in my spam folder were links to neo-Nazi propaganda related to the 60th anniversary of VE-Day. Doubtless, the spam was sent by some loser skinhead whose grandparents hadnt been born when the Allies marched into Berlin.
Somehow I missed the earlier messages, also sent by the Sober virus, that promised World Cup soccer tickets. But the idea of spam being sent by viruses residing on unprotected computers makes me wonder: Who is more useless, the people who send the spam (and the virus) or the people too lazy to install/update anti-virus software on their computers and end up forwarding the messages?
I especially like the spam that arrives in an Asian character set. I am never quite sure which language I am looking at, but the characters are pretty and Ive never felt even the slightest urge to open the messages. I used to have an anti-spam program that deleted all messages in a non-Western character set, but my current server-based anti-spam doesnt do this.
Spanish spam is just as easy to recognize and delete, but I remember just enough high school Spanglish to understand what some of the messages are about. Yes, spam can be used for language practice.
This brings us to English language spam, or at least spam that makes an attempt to be in English. My special favorites are the ones ostensibly from young women who want to meet me. These are also generally written in English so fractured as to be funny. Its fun to watch the language improve as the e-mail is resent over and over. Of course, maybe this really is how 18-year-old “Julie” from “Texas Highschool Houston” really communicates. Or is it really a 28-year-old coder in Romania? Which would you pick?
Sometimes I try to figure out how the spam managed to make it past the spam filter. What did the spammer do that Microsoft hasnt caught on to? Many times I cant say for sure.
I also wonder about the games spammers and their customers play. For example, Id be very suspicious of someone who couldnt spell the names of prescription drugs correctly. Not that I can spell them, but I recognize the misspellings. So who sends these people money? Folks who think they are getting away with something, I suppose. When all they are really getting is taken.
Do you suppose the customers believe that the anti-spam people are engaged in some conspiracy to keep them from getting the pills they want? Is anti-spam an evil Microsoft/governmental plot to keep people from getting what a recent e-mail described as “VìAGRRA VALíUMM C1àL1S.”
As for the phishing, youd think after people received a bunch of messages from banks they dont do business with, theyd not respond to any message. Or perhaps they would notice that their PayPal and eBay accounts both still work fine, despite the evil warning received almost hourly.
The downside of all of this is wondering and worrying about the people who actually respond to the “offers” and what might happen to them. Spam and online crime will never disappear, and we need a lot more protection—and potential victim education—than we have today.
But every so often some real fun comes along. The kind that can only come from watching an online criminal do the “perp walk” in front of the TV cameras and straight into jail. Thats spam fun we all can enjoy.
Contributing editor David Coursey has spent two decades writing about hardware, software and communications for business customers.
Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at eWEEK.com Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.