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You've Got Spam: AOL Blocks 1/2 Trillion Spam 472

Posted by michael
from the bit-bucket dept.
yohaas writes "Yahoo! News is reporting that AOL blocked more than 500 billion spam messages for its users in 2003. That comes to 40 messages a day per user. The company regularly blocks 75-80% of all incoming mail as spam! The article also lists the top 10 spam phrases for the year, including such come-ons as: 'Viagra online', 'Online pharmacy', 'Get out of debt' and 'Get bigger'."
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You've Got Spam: AOL Blocks 1/2 Trillion Spam

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  • by corebreech (469871) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:05AM (#7865518) Journal
    AOL has been losing email for over a decade now.

    (is this another dupe story?)
  • Imagine. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tehdely (690619) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:06AM (#7865520) Journal
    It's been suggested in nanae [admin.net-abuse.email] that as a brutal display of the efficacy of spam-fighting and, most importantly, blocklisting, major ISPs all simultaenously turn off their spam defenses for a day to show users just how much UCE spew is clogging the internet every day.

    Of course, the idea is repeatedly turned down for its utter lack of pragmatism.

    But damn, 500 billion spams, and that's only to AOL.

    Just imagine.

    The instant clogging of mail-servers around the world and subsequent technological disruption might actually get the general computer-using public to take more of an interest in the fact that around 200 gangs of people are effectively raping and pillaging the Internet right under their eyes.

    But then again, what can one do when faced with the Tragedy of the Commons?
    • Re:Imagine. (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gzip Christ (683175)
      It's been suggested in nanae that as a brutal display of the efficacy of spam-fighting and, most importantly, blocklisting, major ISPs all simultaenously turn off their spam defenses for a day to show users just how much UCE spew is clogging the internet every day.
      So let me get this straight... you're asking us to imagine a beowulf cluster of spam?
    • Re:Imagine. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wkitchen (581276)
      But damn, 500 billion spams, and that's only to AOL.
      Even worse, that's just the one's AOL blocked. There's a lot that gets through despite their filters.
    • Re:Imagine. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Geek of Tech (678002) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:47AM (#7865695) Homepage Journal
      This coming from the people that I can't get to stop sending me AOL CDs... oh the irony!

      • Re:Imagine. (Score:5, Informative)

        by jht (5006) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @02:27AM (#7865812) Homepage Journal
        I know that was a joke (and a decent one, at that), but I must point out that there's a significant difference between AOL paying their money to mail you a nigh-infinite quantity of CD's and some a-hole spammer making you and AOL both pay to process and read their Viagra spam.

        And to give AOL a little credit, even they are making fun of all the CD's they mail out in their most recent TV ads.

        Though it makes my head hurt to see Jerry Stiller and Snoop Dogg in a commercial together. That's just wrong on so many diffferent levels...
        • Re:Imagine. (Score:5, Funny)

          by dekashizl (663505) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @02:38AM (#7865839) Journal
          Though it makes my head hurt to see Jerry Stiller and Snoop Dogg in a commercial together. That's just wrong on so many diffferent levels...

          Now wait just one minnizle.
        • Re:Imagine. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nuintari (47926) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @04:02AM (#7866026) Homepage
          You are quiet correct, as a sysadmin, I know full well just how much money spam costs, and a big chunck of it is not paid for by the spammer. Its paid for by the network that has to pay for the bandwidth that is used to deliver the crap the spammer sends to me, intended for my customers that don't even want the f'ing shit. I have to pay so a spammer can choke my mail server full of crap that will just get deleted. I have to pay for the spammers that employ dictionary attacks to get spam through to any user they can find. Its my bandwidth that suffers so that they can bombard just a few dozen more people with their nonsense ads that no one wants to see. I didn't ask for it, nor did my customers, why the fuck should I have to pay for it then?

          And if that is not enough, I can assure you, a great deal of spam is comming in from windows systems that have been infected with some exploit and turned into mail relays. Real Time Blacklists have been a lot less effective over the past few weeks due to spam comming from dsl and cable lines now with a new vigor. Its not just a couple comming from an owned pc, its a couple hundred.

          And yet, its still fucking legal! Explain it to me God, explain it to me, I want it explained, Jesus!!!!!!
          • Re:Imagine. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @07:31AM (#7866450) Journal
            And yet, its still fucking legal!

            Using a virus or a trojan to take over a PC and use it to relay spam is definitley *not* legal in the USA. I really want to see someone tie this to an individual spammer and get the bastard sent up the river..

            -jcr
          • Re:Imagine. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by budgenator (254554)
            And yet, its still fucking legal! Explain it to me God, explain it to me, I want it explained, Jesus!!!!!!

            no it not legal, it's illegal on so many different levels, that its hard for the Law Enforcement to keep track of it all. Most cops have a hard enough time keeping up with their case load, to bother looking at the big picture once in a while.

            I can assure you, a great deal of spam is comming in from windows systems that have been infected with some exploit and turned into mail relays. isn't that comp
    • Re:Imagine. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Frater 219 (1455) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @02:31AM (#7865821) Journal
      It's been suggested in nanae that as a brutal display of the efficacy of spam-fighting and, most importantly, blocklisting, major ISPs all simultaenously turn off their spam defenses for a day to show users just how much UCE spew is clogging the internet every day.

      Of course, the idea is repeatedly turned down for its utter lack of pragmatism.

      No, it is repeatedly turned down because it would represent deliberate dereliction of duty on the part of each mail administrator participating. Since you are replaceable, you cannot show off how important your job is by failing to do it and causing everyone a pain. You will just be fired and replaced with someone who puts duty and ethics ahead of making political points at your users' expense.

      Nor is it any better of a move if done with the approval of management. Each ISP who does it will alienate its own customers -- "You let spam into my mailbox to prove to me that spam is bad? I already knew that, shithead!" -- and will lose customers to those ISPs who do not breach their customers' trust in this fashion.

      In short, letting spam in doesn't demonstrate that spam is bad. We already know that spam is bad. All it demonstrates is that you are willing to hurt people who trust you in order to make a point. That's called being an asshole. And that is why this "protest" has been shot down time and again.

    • Re:Imagine. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MrChuck (14227) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @03:18AM (#7865937)
      I work anti-spam at a large corp. 70% is about right.

      I've done a lot of email work with companies.

      It's damaging email. It's hurting business. It costs BILLIONS a year to slow down spam to make mailboxes not entirely useless.

      A manager: "I can't see how someone serious about doing business could keep relying on email."

      Mail is being discarded (no bounce backs, no trail) all over the place.

      Now, when the US House stops blocking spam to their own mailboxes, maybe we'll get some laws with some balls and maybe the FTC, FBI and similar agencies might get the budget and motivation to track down the HUGE amount of spam that is illegal in that it's perpetrating scams or illegal medicines.

      We convict the minor players and offer them real prison or they get to appear on the new Fox show:
      "Cane the Spammer".

      20 whacks. Each whack given by a system admin selected by lottery.

      Do it public and demotivate the kiddies willing to blast out some mail for some guy for $500.

  • Outbound (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:06AM (#7865523)
    Now if they'd only block going outbound too!
    • Unfortunately, ISPs are loathe to do that because there are customers who connect to mail servers other then the ISP.

      What might work, but would require resources would be to setup some sort of profile system which only allows selective port 25 filtering. (This will be an expensive idea, with some invasion of privacy.)

      For every customer, start a list of the SMTP servers that they contact, and only allow them to contact up to 10 different SMTP servers. If a customer hits their limit due to trojan'd mach
  • by DeathPenguin (449875) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:07AM (#7865525)
    I know AOL bashing is a treasured hobby of many Slashdotters, but based on those numbers it seems that they're doing a fairly good job at blocking spam. Especially since they're a huge ISP who has to be conservative with their spam blocking techniques.
    • Yes, give credit where credit is due. AOL deserves some credit for their spam fighting efforts.
    • by dvdeug (5033) <dvdeug@@@email...ro> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:45AM (#7865687)
      Especially since they're a huge ISP who has to be conservative with their spam blocking techniques.

      What makes you think that? AOL tends to have a lot of false positives when blocking spam.
      • by mrd_yaddayadda (629895) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @05:14AM (#7866234)

        Our mail server has somehow erroneously been blacklisted and so we have added about 100 emails of that "Spam" to that half a trillion. I'm sure we're not alone.

        The blacklists aren't infallible and get messed up and tend to be very slow to respond to errors or worse just don't bother (or even worse demand money to be removed in one noteable case).

        What the article should say is that AOL blocked half a trillion emails, god knows how many of them were legit emails or how many really were spam...

        • by scrytch (9198)
          Our mail server has somehow erroneously been blacklisted.

          So go email the antispam guy on AOL (not from YOUR email address naturally), his name's Carl, and he's a nice and reasonable guy who will tell you precisely why your server was blocked. AOL can make mistakes, but they don't sustain blocks without evidence.

          You'll have to subscribe to SPAM-L (http://www.claws-and-paws.com/spam-l) to find his full name and email address since I won't share it here, but that shouldn't take too long.
      • False positives... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SacredNaCl (545593)
        A good fourth of the time I can't communicate with AOL users period via email. Whether I use my ISP's server to send it, or the free service I have in Russia.

        The free service I have in Russia blocks yahoo all of the time now, doesn't even tell the user who sent it that their mail couldn't be delivered. It just disappears into a blackhole. I'm sure they block others as well. It's pretty rare for me to get spam on that account. Since I know they block people I'm reluctant to use the address as much anymor
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:57AM (#7865738)
      I go to purdue universtiy in lafayette and when I try to email anyone with an AOL address, I get a return message saying that @purdue.edu has been blocked for spam. Its easy to reach 500 billion when you block out entire organizations and probably count all the legit email as spam. Their is no way a universities email server was used for spam, if a student sent spam their is no way they would be caught. This suggests aol makes no complaints with providers and just blocks automatically. Very bad. Whats the point in blocking spam if you don't report it to the ISP so that the spammer can go down for it.
      • by Samari711 (521187) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @02:15AM (#7865790)
        I'm a student at Notre Dame and work for the IT people and get to go clean compromised machines. generally any machine spewing spam gets picked up by university sniffers relatively quickly and their machine is disconnected before much harm could be done. also anything reported as spamming would be disconnected as well. they keep mac address records and such so that finding the computers is more or less easy. of course a lot of the stuff the IT people do is ass backwards at times and i'm sure at an engineering school like purdue they tend to do things a bit more sensically, so the chances of spam originating from a university with any sense at all is extremely small.
      • by puck71 (223721) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @03:14AM (#7865923) Journal
        That happened at my college a couple years ago when AOL started cracking down on open mail relays. They basically said, "You have an open relay, close it or you can't send e-mail to us" - so they closed the relay and we were let back through their filters. Basically what changed was that I could no longer use the college mail server to send my mail from home. Now you had to be on campus to use it to send mail. Which is really how it should be, since anyone around the world could have punched in the mail server name and sent any mail they wanted, hence the "open relay" I guess...

        If I had to guess, something similar is happening over there. I'd recommend looking into it. It is very resolvable.
        • by iantri (687643)
          You know, that's kind of ridiculous.

          SMTP AUTH has existed for ages; it allows one to authenticate themselves to the SMTP server.

          In fact, my e-mail provider, gmx.net, uses it. (It's a free provider.) So does my ISP, Speedline.ca.

    • How do you infer that? They block half a trillion messages. How many of those are legitimate e-mail? I have a great idea.... just send all your mail to /dev/null. You'll block 100% of spam. Might have the ocassional false-positive, though.
    • False Positives (Score:4, Informative)

      by temojen (678985) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @04:45AM (#7866161) Journal

      AOL blocks any mail that is routed direct to the Mail Exchanger (Or simply has the headers stripped to anonymize it's origin)

      This excludes a whole lot of out of the box UNIX/Linux/BSD installs, as well as anonymizers and some website registration verification scripts. I'd rather not have to send your website login password through 3 different servers before it reaches your ISP. (Of course, the password shouldn't be sent through the email anyways, but a lot of sites do).

      That's not what I'd call "being conservative". To me, being conservative would be tagging suspected spam as such, and letting the MUA filter it into a seperate mailbox. AOL can include a MUA (Netscape) on it's disk, so it can be pre-configured.

  • by dgrgich (179442) * <(drew) (at) (grgich.org)> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:07AM (#7865526) Homepage
    . . . to make a crack about the Post Office blocking the shipment of trillions of AOL CDs. I prefer to work for my karma. :)
  • by I'm back (737470) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:07AM (#7865527)
    Instead of sending the mails to the bitbucket AOL should do something about the abuse. They've got the IP addresses of half a trillian zombies and open proxies. Where's the AOL goon squad? They should be kicking down doors, not writing press releases.
    • They've got the IP addresses of half a trillian zombies and open proxies.

      Erm, I think you'll find that the average spammer will send more than one email from a compromised machine. So there's probably slightly less than half a trillion machines involved here...
    • by Phroggy (441) *
      If too much spam starts coming from a particular IP block, AOL sends a nastygram to the ISP that owns the IP block, threatening to blacklist the IP block, or the entire ISP. If that happens, no customers of that ISP can send mail to @aol.com at all, so the ISP pretty much has to do their own policing, or risk causing major problems for all their other customers.

      As much as I'd love for AOL to start kicking down spammers' doors, they can't exactly do that legally themselves.

      Anybody attorneys want to commen
  • What good is it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DarkBlackFox (643814) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:10AM (#7865535)
    if they block 500 billion spam messages if a couple trillion spams are sent around in a year? Despite how large that number sounds, I still see client AOL inboxes stuffed with all sorts of junk, and see this more as a publicity stunt on AOL's part. I read the article, and no where in it does it say how much spam total there was in 2003. 500 billion may sound impressive by itself, but if it's 500 billion blocked out of 50 trillion, it's not such a big deal.
    • by millisa (151093) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:17AM (#7865558)
      I just took a gander at my logs on my postfix-amavisd-spamassassin front ends for one of my smaller ISP's and after doing the math, it's blocking ~36 spam/user/day on average (with spamassassin only blocking at score 9+). It doesn't surprise me that AOL is getting somewhere around ~40spam/user/day as it is more widely visible and the userbase as a whole is generally a lot more likely to do things that would encourage spammers . . .
  • by wol (10606) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:12AM (#7865545)
    They may block a lot of garbage, but they also refuse to admit that my email to my mother is not spam.

    Maybe there is something she's not telling me.

    Mom!
    • by NoData (9132) <_NoData_@NoSPAM.yahoo.com> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:19AM (#7865574)
      Maybe if you stopped sending your mother,
      "Mom! The all new penis patch will get you bigger and harder than ever!" your email would go through.
    • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:36AM (#7865646)
      Although funny, it is also true. AOL has been randomly blocking entire ISPs - my hosting service's outgoing SMTP server was arbitrarily blocked by AOL for a total of about a month back around October. My hosting service had absolutely no violations of any kind, and after 2-3 weeks of bitcing and voice-mail-hell, AOL did finally respond, agree that they were not big-bad-purveyors-of-donkey-dick and unblocked them... Only to reblock them again in about 10 days, at which point my hosting service had to start all over again with them. It seems like the second time was the charm since I just sent email to an AOL user today and it didn't bounce (maybe AOL is now silently eating email instead of bouncing, that sure wouldn't make my life easier).

      Anyway, from what I read on the net my hosting provider's experience with AOL's blocking of incoming SMTP connections is not out of the ordinary, many, maybe hundreds, of "little guys" have had the same experience. Makes me want to know the false positive rate for their spam blocking -- I'm willing to bet that AOL themselves don't even know the answer to that one.
      • I suspect their customers report email they think is spam, and without actually investigating, AOL blocks any SMTP server involved. I had this same user input problem with an ancient system I built to block spam based on sender address (which worked in the very early days - spammers are well beyond this stage now). My users would forward things that clearly weren't spam. I don't know if they simply misunderstood the email, sent it in error, or sent it as a joke. Luckily the system was only semi-automate
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:13AM (#7865549)
    They bounce back ALL mail to addresses that don't exist, and if some spammer users YOUR domain or YOUR email address, you get all the bounces. They also don't respond when you try to get them to stop. It's incredibly frustrating.
    • by gnuber (605327)
      They bounce back ALL mail to addresses that don't exist, and if some spammer users YOUR domain or YOUR email address, you get all the bounces. They also don't respond when you try to get them to stop.

      From my ~/.procmailrc :

      :0
      * ^From: .*MAILER-DAEMON@aol.com
      /dev/null

    • by draziw (7737) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @05:27AM (#7866268) Journal
      Here is how to fix that in postfix.

      In main.cf:
      Under smtpd_sender_restrictions add a line that looks like this:
      check_client_access regexp:/etc/postfix/client_access

      Make a file client_access:
      /^omr-(d|m|r).*\.mx\.aol\.com$/ 554 Rejected due to bounce storm

      And your head stops hurting. Been there, done that. - Love postfix.
      Take a look at the snapshot rev, and the reject_unverified_sender option too. Great stuff.

      PS:A OL gives you what you need to help the bounce problem on this handy page http://postmaster.info.aol.com/info/servers.html [aol.com]

      -- +1 for low user id, -1 for posting good comment.
  • by stonebeat.org (562495) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:13AM (#7865554) Homepage
    I think the phrase "stop spam now" should be added to the list of top 10 spam phrases.
    seriously, I get 5-10 spam email / day telling me how to stop receiving spam emails.
  • that was nowhere near 581%.
  • by emptybody (12341) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:17AM (#7865563) Homepage Journal
    When they started blocking "unknown relays" they dropped a pile of legitimate email
    • When they started blocking "unknown relays" they dropped a pile of legitimate email

      Legitimate e-mail shouldn't be coming through an unknown relay. Really, your e-mail server should be setup with a proper reverse lookup. There is absolutely nothing wrong with denying mail from unknown e-mail servers (e-mail servers that don't reverse look-up to the correct name). many people and ISPs do this specifically to get rid of SPAM, as anyone running a real mail server should be spending the time to setup his e-

      • Legitimate e-mail shouldn't be coming through an unknown relay. Really, your e-mail server should be setup with a proper reverse lookup. There is absolutely nothing wrong with denying mail from unknown e-mail servers (e-mail servers that don't reverse look-up to the correct name). many people and ISPs do this specifically to get rid of SPAM, as anyone running a real mail server should be spending the time to setup his e-mail server correctly.

        Huh? No way! I have a business level cable modem plan, and my

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:18AM (#7865564)
    It has nothing to offer me since I work from home using my degree (obtained online) in pharmaceuticals. I have a huge cock, am quite rich, get my insurance for free and own my home outright. I do have to use viagra occasionally because it is sometimes hard to get it up for some good Oprah XXX action but I can get it through the pharmacy which I run online.
  • Collateral Damage (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:19AM (#7865570) Homepage
    AOL blocks a lot of legitimate email as well, however. If you prefer to run your own email server (for example, about half of all the Linux broadband users on Slashdot) then you cannot send to an AOL user... same goes for SWBell users too I think. Sure they block a lot of email and I can kinda understand their purpose in blocking "dynamic" or "residential" IPs... but that is collateral damage.
    • My ISP blocks outgoing port 25 activity but not incomming so my sig points to a catch all on my home connection for analyzing spam. Recieving on port 25 is no different than getting mail any other way. The ISP only cares about one way communication.

      To get around the port 25 block I run my mail server on an alternate port for myself and then use RinetD on port 25 which fowards to the mail server. My e-mail going out is none of my ISP's business. The server that actually sends the mail is hosted by anoth
  • Efficiency Rate? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by itsnotme (20905) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:19AM (#7865573) Homepage
    If they're blocking that much spam, makes me wonder how much of the mail that was NOT spam is being blocked. Maybe AOL users are not getting all the email they should be getting.

    On the other hand, I get spam from AOL and they dont seem to be doing anything about it, maybe they should be concetrating on blocking their outgoing spam too.
  • My own score (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PD (9577) * <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:20AM (#7865576) Homepage Journal
    In 2003 Spamprobe blocked just over 12000 on my personal domain, which is low compared to many others.
  • by Crazieeman (610662) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:21AM (#7865581) Journal
    I'm not sure if it has to do with the new United States anti-spam law or not, but I have received the same amount of spam in 48 hours as I would have in 12 hours in 2003. About 45 emails.
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Christoff84 (707146)
    Of that half trillion emails, I wonder how many of them originated inside aol itself.

    All those 1000 hour free CDs being put to use in the wrong hands...
  • by Maskirovka (255712) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:22AM (#7865585)
    (5E11*20kb)/(1024E3) [1024E4 kilabytes/terrabyte]
    =9,765.6 petabytes [I guessed at the average size of a spam email]

    I wonder how much that costs AOL?

    • by interiot (50685)
      20kb as an average size for email?? No way, most of mine are 0.3 - 1.0 kB. Currently a lot of spam (at least the stuff I'm seeing) is HTML only (no plaintext multipart alternative), presumably to save the spammers money, since bandwidth is the only thing they DO pay for (and lately with hacked cable modem machines, they don't even have to pay for that, the pissers...).
  • Some stats (Score:2, Informative)

    by titaniam (635291) *
    Hey. I get a fair amount of spam, but I am not afraid. It is all filtered. You can see some recent ones at drpa.us/spam.html [drpa.us]. Try to send me an email, and check if it gets through! You can also see a plot of my daily spam frequency for the last 400 days or so at drpa.us/spam0.jpg [drpa.us]. Advice to all: start saving all your spam and good mail in separate folders. The more you save, the easier it is for a smart filter to automatically identify them. And many thanks to Paul Graham [paulgraham.com] for teaching us all the Bayesia
  • Only Spam? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spacejock (727523) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:25AM (#7865601) Homepage
    iiNet is one of the largest ISPs in Australia (third or fourth now, I think). I got an advisory yesterday saying AOL and RR had both blocked all inbound mail from iinet as 'spam' They can crow about 500 billion mails all they like, but if a lot of it involves turning off mail from whole slabs of legitimate users, then it's not much of a service. The other thing is, if spammers are using trojans to create spam relays, then it's a bit hard to blame a particular ISP if a bunch of their users have been infected with this stuff. iiNet has a policy of advising users when they appear to be infected, they're cluey people too, they run everything on Debian as far as I can tell, and they have local mirrors for many Linux distros etc. I guess what I'm saying is that if you're going to block an ISP's mail you'd start with clueless behemoths who don't give a damn. Anyway, they appear to have a work-around in place, but RR is still blocking. Simon
  • by oskillator (670034) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:26AM (#7865603)
    A less deceptive way of phrasing it is that AOL has blocked 500 billion emails from reaching the intended recipients. I doubt very much that this figure takes into account the ridiculous rate of false positives that AOL's rather loose definition of "spam" [slashdot.org] results in.
  • They block email from all sorts of people (read FRIENDS) that are mailing from some ISP that RR has a woody for. I think RR is doing it just to strongarm the little ISP's into folding. As those users get blocked, they get pissed and drop that ISP. The BIG ISP's are forcing the little ISP's out of business by exclusion.

    I'm pissed at RR over it and emailed them but they say "too bad, your friends need to contact their ISP and have their ISP stop violating OUR policies. Either that or they can switch ISP'
  • The proxypot operators who are also capturing spam that would have been deliverable to AOL addresses but didn't. I ran a proxypot for a couple of months, back about July-August 2003. I trapped *gigabytes* of spam that would have gotten to AOl users, almost exclusively in some instances, most of it from Internet Video Networks hosted on C&W's sewer network. I took it down after posting too many messages to nanae and had it identified by spammers and no longer used. It's comin' nigh up on getting it b
  • "That comes to 40 messages a day per user" Wow, anyone who gets 40 spam emails a day must not be very smart. Or their friends must not be very smart and put peoples names on those "Tell your freinds" things (You know, you see a short clip or something and it has like 10 slots underneath for friends e-mail address') If anybody gets a lot of spam, it is usually their fault. I get on average 2 spam emails per day (The most i have gotten in a long time is about 5), and i dont even use any sort of spam blocker/
    • I must ask this as well. I have had one of my email addresses stuck on newsgroups, forums, and websites for over 3 years now, so out there for all the little spam harversters. I average about 3-5 SPAMs a day. It is still annoying but I do not know how others get hundreds of SPAM a day.

      Is there something others are doing with their email, or is the fact that the people who do get hundreds of SPAM or whatever amount it takes to be unproductive, just popular or is there something else they are doing?
  • Until we replace SMTP, I don't know why we should expect any different...
  • While were talking spam, has anyone else noticed a considerable improvement in Hotmail's handling of it? Is Hotmail's "Report Junk Email" option similar to community based spam fighting technologies like Spamnet?
  • Spam is like phone solicitation and junk mail. If it didn't work they wouldn't do it. The only real way to perminately stop it is to encourage everyone to not respond. If no one responded it would dry up overnight. Unfortunately there is a percentage that are gullible so we all pay the price. I've encouraged people for years to hang up on phone solicitors. The same must be done with spammers. There really needs to be a grass roots movement to educate people to avoid junk mail of all forms. Personally I boyc
  • Stopping spam. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DarkHelmet (120004) <mark AT seventhcycle DOT net> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:39AM (#7865663) Homepage

    Note: I did some thinking earlier on spam, and I figured I would post this the next time slashdot does a story on spam... You can find a link to this at:

    http://sillygoth.com/journal/21669 [sillygoth.com]

    This is my writing... I just want some feedback on it from the slashdot crowd.

    Okay...

    One of the things that I've been tired of recently is dealing with lots and lots of spam in my inbox. I've become even more tired of hearing about how there's a lack of solutions for dealing with it. It's one of the things that slashdot has been endlessly parading about.

    To me, the primarily problem with spam is that emails are too easily spoofable. Solve this, and spam will become *much* more managable.

    So, what technology is there right now that deals with certifying legitimacy?

    Digital Certificates!

    When you go to a site that's protected with https, the owners of the site usually have to get a certificate from a trusted source (Verisign, Thawte, etc) signifying that the site is legitimate (so that you don't end up giving credit card information to someone fronting for that company).

    You actually *can* get a digital certificate for your email, but it costs money. Plus, to make something like that mandatory, each user would have to set up a certificate individually. Evil.

    Why not move authentication to the domain itself? When accounts are setup on a user's machine, create an RSA public / private key per account. Simple enough.

    When a user sends an email, force this user to relay the email through the mail server rather than directly from his/her computer. Force the user to authenticate their email / password to send the message. Some servers already force this, I believe.

    When the user authenticates him/herself, encode a confirmation id using some elements of the email (first xx characters of message, subject, date, etc) using the RSA private key and attach it to the message.

    Here's what should change with the receiving server... When a mail server receives the message, the mail server should initiate a separate connection that looks up the domain's MX server, and communicates with it.

    This MX server should then provide the RSA public key for the account listed. The public key will then be used to decrypt the stamp that the MX server included with the message. If the stamp is legitimate, deliver the message to the inbox.

    If a stamp is not legitimate, or there's no stamp, simply don't deliver the message. Simple enough.

    This method has its series of strengths:

    There would be absolutely no point in spammers taking over people's machines with viruses in order to send email if email must be sent through a qualified mail server. It's possible that worms could be written to auto-send messages through these relays, but at least then the mail server could detect it and shut the person out.

    If mail sent is authenticated from a domain, people would then have the option to blacklist domains that aren't responsible for keeping tabs on its users.

    Mail *will* come from where it says it's coming from. If not from the exact user on the domain, it'll come from that particular machine.

    Of course, there are possible weaknesses to this strategy too.

    If the mail server is hacked, hackers would be able to still send mail from it using the private key. Fortunately, they would only be able to send from email addresses listed under domains they own.

    Spam software like SpamCop / Spamassassin / etc would be able to keep tabs on servers that exhibit hacked behavior, and temporarily blacklist these servers until resolved.

    This doesn't necessarily stop users with legitimate email addresses from sending spam. Someone with a legitimate email address can still be spammed.

    But at least when you block their email address or domain, it'll be a real email address, and a real domain name.

    This method is not 100% in eliminating spam. But it's a damn good start.

    • "You actually *can* get a digital certificate for your email, but it costs money"

      Yeah, you can get those in your BIOS and media files and anywhere else. "Trusted Computing" EVIL. "Trusted E-Mail" GOOD.

      What is wrong with you people?

      You know what I do to block spam?

      I filter out links contained in e-mails and block the COMPANIES.

      I don't care how forged the header is. If the e-mail contains a link to spam domain it doesn't get through.

      Nobody's right to privacy is infringed and it's 100% effective and 1
  • They should make this spam readily available for everyone to use that wants it

    That'd make for one hell of a bayesian filter. :)
  • by FearUncertaintyDoubt (578295) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:45AM (#7865688)
    ...why AOL users have such small penises and breasts.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:50AM (#7865705)
    It seems like the latest attack on Bayes-based filters is to throw misspellings and random characters into the message. I'm surprised the major Bayes tools haven't linked to a standard spell-checker and consider really bad spelling a sign of spam...
  • by fresh27 (736896) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @01:57AM (#7865737) Homepage
    they simply want everyone to use AOL. if you cant email your friend on AOL, its your fault, and you gotta use AOL to fix it. maybe one day they will block mail from any non-AOL members. i could see it happening.
  • by dananderson (1880) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @03:14AM (#7865924) Homepage
    I find it very funny that AOL is blocking a 1/2 trillion spams. AOL is also a host to major spammers. I know. I track it. AOL IP addresses 172.176.0.0 to 172.199.255.255 are used to host spammers (including porn).

    Complain to AOL about it? They do nothing--since it's not a @aol.com address, they deny responsibility, yet collect cash from their spam customers. Very convenient. I find it funny that AOL supported the CAN SPAM act, which legalizes spam and invalidates tougher local laws, such as California's. Boycott AOL if you dislike spam.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @04:04AM (#7866032) Homepage
    The solution to this is to strictly enforce some laws we have, like the California law that makes it a criminal offense to accept a credit card number online from a California resident without first disclosing the actual business name and address of the business. If every spammer who violated that law did the required six months in the county jail, we'd have far fewer spammers.
  • Time to grow up (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iamacat (583406) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @04:05AM (#7866035)
    It used to be that systems on the Internet started out pretty open. If some students figured out how to get in, but kept their practical jokes clean and fun, nobody cared much. If people got out of line, things generally got patched. Like adding salt to UNIX passwords so that people don't just encrypt the whole dictionary and look for matches. Worked pretty well given CPU speeds and hackers' skills at the time it was introduced.

    Whatever happened now? SMTP started out pretty open. Obviously things got out of control. So, fix it already. A group of ISPs can gang up and require all SMTP users to sign up with their username/password, which is already supported by all e-mail clients. Limit each user to 1000 e-mails a day (allowing for rather large mailing lists, but still 1000 times too low to make spam attractive for the subscription price). Then only accept e-mail from cooperating hosts over SSL pipes with a correct certificate. Prepend BORK: to the subject lines from other domains so that users can filter them to another mailbox.

    If yahoo participates, I can always ask people to sign up for a free account if they really want to reach me. Smaller ISPs will jump on the chance to de-bork their e-mails and make customers happier. Once enough of them do, bigger ISPs will have an incentive as well. Problem solved!
  • by wo1verin3 (473094) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @04:35AM (#7866122) Homepage
    As I state in many of my posts, I work for a medium-large size software company.

    We have a website, and about 1 million customers (not sure how many active..) have accounts on our website to download updates, patches, etc.

    When they forget a password, they choose can option to have their password sent to them.

    They can also request technical support via e-mail.

    The forms sent out for both of those are very similar and AOL appears to 'randomly' block many of these e-mails. Sometimes they'll go through, sometimes they won't. We can trace the e-mail to aol's server, watch it be accepted but never have the customer on the phone recieve it.

    They're 'spam prevention' isn't as great as it could be, especially since we've contacted them and they've promised to 'look in to it'.
    • by Grimster (127581) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @05:35AM (#7866278) Homepage
      Every now and then we'll wake up to find one or more of our servers blocked by aol, you can test it quickly by telnetting to port 25 on one of their MX's and it'll tell you right away if you're blocked.

      Call, stay on hold 45 minutes, and you get "white listed" for 30 days and they ask you to setup a special email to send you spam complaints to if that IP becomes a problem again in the future. Sounds good right? I mean we host nearly 13,000 web sites for over 6000 customers, we DO get some spam sent through us once in a while (open formmail.php is the worst) and we handle it the second it's noticed.

      HOWEVER we have YET to recieve ONE, and I mean that as in a SINGLE complaint from AOL for ANY of our ips. Yet 7 times now we've been blocked. Luckily it hasn't happened in a few weeks.

      Do you know how annoying it is when 13,000 web sites become unable to talk to aol? Jesus christ.

      Here's the funny part, often times it's only 1 or 2 of the (best I can tell) 4 main MX servers blocking us, so much for keeping those in sync.

      I applaud them for trying to curb the incoming spam but goddamnit make it POSSIBLE to work with and if you block someone TELL THEM WHY and maybe a little warning please! If I'm notified of a problem I'll GLADLY nuke the spammers ass, or if it's just an open script, we can help the customer secure it, but if we're not informed what can we do? At least spamcop sends us emails with headers of the spam so we can take care of it.

      So I gotta wonder how many of that half trillion is REALLY spam and how much is erroneous blocking.
  • New Email Protocol (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Myopic (18616) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @05:55AM (#7866316)
    every time slashdot has a story about spam, i again wonder to myself why the world hasn't turned to the obvious solution: a new email standard. i read a comment recently to the effect of "if a given protocol allows cheating, it's a bad protocol". it should be clear to everybody that this technical problem can not be solved with legislation (not that it shouldn't be illegal anyway, but it's folly to expect laws to have any real impact). the world needs an email protocol which is encrypted and authenticated, traceable and secure, and easily combined with whitelist or pay-to-deliver filters.
  • by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacific@NOspam.yahoo.com> on Saturday January 03, 2004 @06:37AM (#7866387) Homepage Journal
    Now, if only they could do something about the pop-ups, crashes, dropped connections, high prices, incessant self-promotion, etc, they might have a good product.

    One time, when my usual ISP was down, I needed internet. Desparate, (back when I ran Winders) I threw on an AOL CD to use some of the 1045 hours of free access, planning to cancel when my regular ISP was back online. Cancelling AOL is interesting, first off, the person who answers the calls has been brainwashed to think AOL is the greatest THING ever, and will first ask you why you want to cancel, then argue with your reasoning. Once you go through all that, they will offer you two free months of service while you reconsider. DON'T FALL FOR THIS. I did, and forgot, and the bastards charged my credit card three months later. I was mad as hell and had to go through the Movementarian "You're free to leave anytime you want, but tell us why you're leaving" grilling on the phone all over again. Of course, they offered me two free months again, so apparently you can stay on AOL for free indefinitely this way (But why would you want to?).

    Kaolin may be the only English word with "aol" as a substring.
  • by Tom (822) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @06:51AM (#7866402) Homepage Journal
    In storage and transmission costs alone, this is a fortune.

    So what do we need? Harsher laws, of course. And stop saying they won't work already. The main spammers are known [spamhaus.org] all we need to do is put, say, the top-50 away for life.

    Sounds harsh? I don't think so. Spammers are committing a very serious, evil crime: Stealing from the commons.

    Unfortunately, in our corporate dominated world, where things don't count unless they are property of someone and can be put on a quarterly report, that idea is mostly lost.
    That doesn't change the facts. Spammers are stealing from all of us. A single spam mail might be petty theft, but it's petty theft times several million.

    The law needs to recognize that spam is destroying a part of society, and adapt the sentences. Fuck fines. Put the notorious spammers away for a few decades, into a prison for serial-rapists and murderers. Make their cases extremely public. Make it clear that now that the top-50 list has been cleaned out, anyone aspiring to take one of those spots has a cell reserved already.

  • by An dochasac (591582) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @08:29AM (#7866525)
    I'm still trying to figure out what they aren't blocking. They block emails from mac.com even though a valid name, address and credit card number are required for a .mac email account, but they don't block free services like fastmail.fm or mailhaven.com.

    If they really want to get a handle on spam, fwd:fwd:fwd Urban folklore... they should really block *@aol.com.
  • Spam Spam Spam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WhitehatSystems.com (736014) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @09:05AM (#7866637) Homepage
    Well.. its not amazing, spam grows at leaps and bounds each day that someone new moron thinks they will make money from doing spam, cause the hear about it on TV and online so much. I spoke to a Failed spammer recently and he said " I lost my isp connection, and they never paid me" So that leaves one to think that only the High end guys are probably really making TONS of money off of this anymore, they have the little guy actually doing the mailings. AOL has so many email accounts and allows each user to have so many per account that it is not unbelievavle that they are probably blocking themost if not in the top 5 --Dave http://www.whitehatsystems.com/ [whitehatsystems.com]
  • by Zocalo (252965) on Saturday January 03, 2004 @11:24AM (#7867052) Homepage
    No, I don't mean false positives inflating the figures, I mean how many of those were not actually spam, but the delivery status notifications *caused* by spam? AoL, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. are some of the most frequently Joe-Jobbed and spoofed addresses I see in my spam folder. That means any bad email addresses will generate a DSN failure unless this has been disabled by the remote mail admin (which is contra to the SMTP spec). If AoL blocks these too (and why not) then the figures will be inflated , perhaps significantly.

    Still, it's a nice attention grabbing figure to help raise public awareness of the issue, and I have zero issues with that.

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