Who sends Spam?

Aug. 18, 2005
Because I am curious about who sends the spam I receive, I use the "Better Whois" Web site to look up the domains from which it is sent.
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Khol editorials

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It is easy for spammers to "spoof" or attach fictitious domain names to what they send. But at least half of the domains that show up seem to belong to the cretins actually responsible.

I find Earthlink Web Mail a big help in coping with spam. Earthlink provides a quick way to identify the domains from which spam is sent. Earthlink also has a good filter for stopping spam before it reaches an inbox. That's why I pay the outrageous price of $68.56 per month for DSL Earthlink service. I could get a cheaper service, but it might not be as good at filtering spam.

The bulk of my spam used to come from sources such as Boa Noite, Dice Web Hosting, Financial Net Venture Online, Typhoon Games Ltd., and Big Time Fiber. The two biggest registrars for spammers seem to be Network Solutions LLC and Go Daddy Software Inc.

Until recently, spammers often used two dots in the domain name. If you blocked the domain, they could then change the name in front of the first dot without registering a new name. Only the name before the last dot counts. Now, however, most spammers have dropped the use of two dots and register a new domain for each mailing. A new domain can be registered for around $10, so using throwaway domains is no problem. Most of the time nothing is gained by blocking domains, but my blocker still filters out from one to three pieces of spam per day.

The prolific spammers of several months ago have largely dropped off the map. Domain names of spammers now show no consistent pattern other than a large portion of them coming from overseas. Russia frequently shows up as a source of spamming, but other than that, the sources are more or less sprinkled around the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Another ploy spammers have learned is to use common Internet services, which most people don't want to block because friends or business associates send mail from them. Prominent among these services are yahoo.com and swbell.net. You would think that responsible Internet services wouldn't let themselves be used by spammers, but they do.

The biggest trend is spam using return addresses of innocent people who don't know their addresses are being used for spoofing or that their computers have been co-opted. If you get an angry e-mail or telephone call complaining about the spam you sent, that's why. It also explains why you may get notice of undeliverable mail you never sent. The addresses of small businesses and special-interest groups, such as historical societies, are frequently appropriated by spammers.

Has the Can Spam law made a difference? The only difference I can see is that it has made spammers develop a lower profile or move operations offshore. What surprises me is that law-enforcement people have so little interest in pursuing and prosecuting spammers. That is all the more surprising because about half the spam is for drugs obviously aimed at addicts. In short, a large portion of spammers are online dope dealers.

Why are we still being spammed? Apparently because it works. One person recently convicted of spamming was said to have sent out as many as 10 million pieces of spam per day, and in some months he made as much as $750,000. That being the case, it appears that the persons primarily responsible for spam are the idiots who respond to it. And it is my guess that most of them are dope addicts, and that they will never stop responding.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor
Send feedback to MDeditor @ penton.com

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