Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Kevin Drum points out an interesting article in the Guardian today. Computer programmers are proposing a way to fight back against spammers by harnessing the power of unused computers the same way that the abusers tend to do.
Lycos UK is offering free screensavers designed to counter-attack the junk emailers by turning their own techniques against them.

Entitled, somewhat confusingly, Make Love, Not Spam, the campaign aims to harness the coordinated power of under-occupied computers and bombard blacklisted sites with streams of email requests which will slow down targeted addresses and interfere with their business.
Mr Van Rensburg [of Lycos] said the plan was not to target the sites that send out spam, which are often hijacked computers, but to hit the sites that the spam benefits, many of them pornographic and based in eastern Europe. "If you want to call it vigilante action, so be it."

But Matt Sergeant, the chief anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, said he did not approve of fighting network abuse with further network abuse. "It's too difficult to get it exactly right," he said. "The safeguards now in place are not too bad."
I think this latter comment is onto something. It is probably not a solution to fight fire with fire in this situation because that would just clog up the network with even more abuse than it already contains. Secondly, spammers cover their tracks so that they will not get caught. Before running such a program, I would want some assurance that the authorities would not hold me accountable for my counter-abuse. Still, it is an intriguing idea.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

CK "anonymous" here, unable to muster the energy to create yet another disposable online identity: the screensaver is, on the surface, a kickass idea to hammer the crap out servers of "confirmed" (problematic, right there, I guess) spammers (not via "streams of email requests," by the way, but via simple data requests, like when you visit a website with a browser). Such innumerable little jabs from all over the net cost them extra bucks in bandwidth fees for all their outgoing data.

The concept does present a few problems, however. One, it is effectively a DDoS attack, which is illegal, prolly. Two, and more pressingly, it doesn't seem to work very well, or even at all, on the Mac.

And I guess there is that whole two-wrongs-don't-make-a-right thing.

12/02/2004 12:51 AM  

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