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Could Fake Phishing Emails Help Fight Spam? 296

Posted by Soulskill
from the hello-sir-madam dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Apparently, the US Department of Justice has been sending out hoax emails to test the security awareness of its staff. How about applying a similar strategy to tackling spam among ordinary users? If fake spam messages offering all the usual benefits, and employing all the usual tricks, were sent out by national security agencies around the world, it would select precisely the people who tend to respond to spam. The agencies could then contact them from a suitably important-looking government address, warning about what could have happened. Some might become more cautious as a result, others will not. But again, it is precisely the latter who are more likely to respond to further fake spam messages in the future, allowing the process to be repeated as often as necessary. The system would be cheap to run — spam is very efficient — and could use the latest spam as templates."
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Could Fake Phishing Emails Help Fight Spam?

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  • Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffasselin (566598) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ednilocamroc]> on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:54AM (#26694123) Journal

    The spam problem will not be solved with laws or pretty tricks like this.

    It is a technological problem, and as such will be solved by technological changes: the SMTP protocol is outdated and totally unadapted to the modern uses to which we put it. Let's replace it with something that authentifies sender and receiver properly, and that allows for efficient transmission of binary data.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by characterZer0 (138196) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:04AM (#26694227)

      Can you come up with a protocol that will not allow a zombie box to, as you say, authenticate properly?

      • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IBBoard (1128019) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:16AM (#26694381) Homepage

        If the zombie box has username/password on a legit account (or whatever the authentication is) then no protocol will help. It might, however, stop email faking and sending from the zombie box itself, which would give a better point of control (because at the moment anyone can send emails that purport to be from Yahoo.com from their own box, if it is set up right, but a protocol that could fail connections claiming to be Yahoo.com emails that don't come from an approved Yahoo.com server would reduce the problem). I don't think anything can solve the "spammer signs up for asdfghjkl.com and starts sending email through that server" spam.

        I don't see how this'll help, though.

        1) The people who fall for this won't actually learn until they're actually stung, not just an email that says it is from a government agency
        2) Chances are they'll probably be more suspicious of the 'Government Agency' email than the "get stuff cheap" email because they're interested in getting stuff cheap, but why would they get an email from the Government
        3) Spam is spam is spam
        4) Spammers/phishers will piggyback the Government emails, clone them and send out similar emails saying they'd been caught by one of these traps, so go to [insert site]
        5) Despite what I said in 1), some of these people will never learn (see the people who get conned out of thousands of £/$/etc)

        • by N1AK (864906)
          You've done a very good job of pointing out the problem with this proposed solution to spam.

          The only solutions to spam that will actually work are ones that negatively effect the person whose computer is being used to send it. This leads to massive problems in trying to balance a workable service with the penalties.

          Personally I would like to see ISPs begin to implement a system where they block service to anyone sending over a certain number of emails in a given time frame (this solution can be as t
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            die, you filthy linux kernel mailing list, die!
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by IBBoard (1128019)

            It's probably a good idea overall, but it would get a lot of criticism as either a) people with email sending addictions sent too many emails and got caught or b) people with infected machines probably wouldn't know/care about what to do and would just object to being blocked.

            ISPs blocking ISPs is potentially asking for trouble, though. It's like IP blacklisting, but it leaves a lot of innocents getting hit just because the ISP hasn't dealt with some trouble makers to some arbitrary degree to make another I

        • by B3ryllium (571199) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:36AM (#26694683) Homepage

          "Congratulations! By responding to this test email, you've received an IRS coupon for a FREE TAX AUDIT. Enjoy!"

          That's one way to teach them. Granted, it's a bit Pavlovian, but ... if it works, it works.

        • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Cthefuture (665326) on Monday February 02, 2009 @11:04AM (#26695081)

          It might, however, stop email faking and sending from the zombie box itself, which would give a better point of control (because at the moment anyone can send emails that purport to be from Yahoo.com from their own box, if it is set up right, but a protocol that could fail connections claiming to be Yahoo.com emails that don't come from an approved Yahoo.com server would reduce the problem).

          Note there is already a system for doing this. It called the Sender Policy Framework [wikipedia.org] (SPF) and uses DNS records to tell mail servers which machines are allowed to send mail for your domain.

          This is not a perfect system though because often there is a legitimate need to use a different e-mail domain address than where your mail came from (eg. forwarding, etc). For that reason it doesn't appear that many mail servers are configured to check SPF records.

          At the very least it seems like they would be good for pre-tagging SPAM (ie. still deliver it but add something to the header that says it could be spam).

      • by goombah99 (560566) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:33AM (#26694629)

        The "good" spam is sort of like a public education campaign about STDs. It's part of a well rounded solution in raising public awareness. Your's may not need raising but you will benefit if the awareness of others' is raised so put up with it.

        Now then there's the post infection detection problem. We could take a simmilar approach of turning a bad thing to our advantage. Presumably these Zombie bots try to hit a series of predefined URLS to announce their availability. Once some of those are known, when not sieze them and use them to get infected computers to self-identify then notify the owners or if unresponsive their ISPs?

        That would not cure all infection. But there is a well known principal in medial virus infection called the R-factor and that is the minimum number of infections needed in a population before the disease becomes self sustaining or growing in infections. We don't have to eliminate all zombies before we reach a point where the infection rate is highly damped.

        • The "good" spam is sort of like a public education campaign about STDs.

          Ooh, terrible metaphor. By that logic, this "good" spam would be like the government having unprotected sex with people to identify who needs to be educated about proper condom use.

      • by squoozer (730327)

        It's not possible to spot a zombie box with a protocol (at least not one that is going to be used for simply sending email) but if the machine has to authenticate with the server before sending then immediately you have and accounting trail. Zombie boxes could be dealt with very quickly and probably in a fairly automated manner. The current black listing system works fairly well but it's rather clumsy and causes a lot of friendly fire (I've been hit several times). While I like the ability to run my own mai

        • 1) You get a spam from box X that authenticated as sending mail for domain Y.
          2) You determine that the message is spam.
          3) ?
          4) Box X gets shut down.

          What is ??

          A spammer would also be willing to cough up (one time) for a certificate.

      • by Hordeking (1237940) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:59AM (#26695025)

        Can you come up with a protocol that will not allow a zombie box to, as you say, authenticate properly?

        RFC 3514 [wikipedia.org] does propose a solution to this sort of thing...

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by oldspewey (1303305) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:09AM (#26694301)

      There are advantages to thinking of (and addressing) spam as a social problem rather than a technological problem. For starters, treating it as a technological problem leads to an arms race mentality in which spammers are continually driven to "outsmart" technological safeguards as they are developed.

      Personally, I have no problem with an approach in which "purchasers" (in other words, anybody who responds to spam in any way) are exposed and educated by any means necessary ... with education consisting of an escalating series of measures until the recipients finally comprehend just how fucking stupid their actions were.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by caffeinemessiah (918089) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:12AM (#26694349) Journal

      Let's replace it with something that authentifies sender and receiver properly, and that allows for efficient transmission of binary data.

      Sigh...it's so tiring to hear people on /. say things like "it's a technological problem" about spam. Do you know how easy it is to get a personal digital certificate from Thawte? Fill out a few forms, download your PKCS certificate. What's to stop your sooper-dooper anti-spam system if you can authenticate a spammer? Remember, if you can legitimately receive an e-mail message from ME (a stranger to you, presumably), you haven't "solved" spam. If you can't legitimately receive an e-mail message from me, I can't tell you that I'm your long-lost twin brother (i.e. your email system is then useless).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chyeld (713439)

        So your arguement is basicly "The current system sucks, therefore no system will work!"?

      • Re:Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday February 02, 2009 @11:50AM (#26695701) Homepage

        The point of authentication is to get accountability, not to get instant filtering. If a spammer is using a fake certificate, that certificate can be blacklisted. If some company isn't checking for fake date, certificates by that company can be blacklisted. If random joe is sending me good mail, I could white list him. If random-mail-provider.com is doing good at stopping fake accounts, I could whitelist them as well. And when you would send your twin mail via a good email provider it would arrive just fine.

        Today you have the issue that you can't really do much, because you can't tell where a mail did come from. Most of the data in the headers is completly fakable and useless, and yet they get used a lot for mail filtering because its the only data we have.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      the SMTP protocol is outdated and totally unadapted to the modern uses to which we put it. Let's replace it with something that authentifies sender and receiver properly.

      That would be nice. All messages could be identified by IP. No wait, it can be spoofed.

      Then they can be identified by MAC. Hmm, but which mac to use?

      Better by full name and Social security number. Yes, that's it! Let's include all data in each mail so the receiver can identify us.

      Or better yet, with a credit card number and its pin.

      Humm, no, that seems dangerous.

      Let's sign the mails with an asymetric encription scheme. Wait, what? What do you mean it already exists and people have been using it for a decade

      • Re:Seriously? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by moteyalpha (1228680) * on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:41AM (#26694751) Homepage Journal
        That is definitely a solution and it is just __scary__ what my customers will do. I have considered training them to use encrypted email and there is a learning issue there. They will not learn how to use it as it is irritating to them and consumes their time. They will simply ignore me and hire somebody that will not bother them about security, even though they are exposing information about others.
        Private customers are even worse, their computer skill level is so low that it is impossible to communicate the fact that they __personally__ must do something and there is no widget solution.
        As far as the government doing this, it just makes matters worse. Soon the spammers will mimic the official documents and as a final step will tell the consumer to install pwn_my_Machine.exe to solve all their problems.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by bruunb (709544)

        Well either sign/encrypt the message with the receivers key or just make the SMTP protocol fetch the mail from the MX server that is says it comes from, this will make sure that approx. 90% of all spam will never reach you inbox since they need to have a valid MX record for the mail to orriginate from.

        To day the SMTP protocol goes like this:

        userA@sub1.example.com sends a mail from a spoofing SMTP server at some arbitrary IP address to someuser@sub2.example.com, the sub2 SMTP server receives everything from

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Elledan (582730) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:20AM (#26694439) Homepage
      How is this a technological problem? How is a user failing to properly read and/or comprehend that the email he or she just received is trying to scam him/her out of money or (personal) information or worse a technological problem? What if a user gets infected by a virus/trojan/worm/rootkit because he had to click on the executable attached to the email received from either a stranger, or from a person who would never send such an email (at least not unannounced)?

      Spam is a matter of social engineering, of convincing someone to buy a product, give out information or click on a random executable, even though every rational fibre in that person's body should warn against doing so. Yes, using something more robust than SMTP would help, but it's no cure against stupidity and botnets.

      I like this initiative, I just wish it would target those who are already at risk of 'stupid-clicking' instead of those with more than one braincell. It's disappointing that those who do respond to spam emails (twice or so...) don't get taken out of the gene pool either :(
      • It's disappointing that those who do respond to spam emails (twice or so...) don't get taken out of the gene pool either :(

        I'm surprised this has never happened to people buying from pill spammers. Think about it: there are thousands and thousands of people ingesting pills purchased from anonymous untraceable strangers with probable ties to organized crime. I'm amazed Al Quaeda or some similar group hasn't clued in to this one yet.

    • by petes_PoV (912422) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:22AM (#26694467)
      > It is a technological problem,

      No.

      Spam persists because a tiny (absolutely, infinitesimally small) proportion of the recipients actually respond to it. Whether that's due to stupidity, greed (oooh - I might get something for nothing), boredom, accident or simply curiosity (hmm, I've never replied to SPAM before, I wonder what happens).

      The costs of sending it are so low, that it is still worthwhile, providing there's one idiot in a million who takes the bait.

      How do you cure this people problem? I don't know. Even if you spend you whole life telling children not to put dirt in their mouths, some still will. You'll never get rid of spam until all the dirt-eaters and spam-responders get a dose of common sense, and that'll never happen.

      • by IBBoard (1128019)

        How do you cure this people problem?

        Send a hit-squad round to the house of everyone found responding to spam? Nuke the earth from orbit, thereby removing both the spam emails (fry the drives) and the recipients/clickers (fry the people)? I'm sure there are ways ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chyeld (713439)

        Disease is a biological problem. You can't eliminate disease from the world using a purely technological approach.

        However, if you have an internet connection to post to /., then chances are good that you and I both have living conditions that are far far more livable and comfortable thanks to the fact that people did use technology when it was possible to prevent what could be prevented and aliveate what couldn't.

        You and I get the flu, pneumonia, or even TB, we are likely to live through it. That wasn't the

    • The last damn thing I want is to click a link out of curiosity and within five minutes be standing there having to listen to the IT guy say "here's your sign" or end up in the HR office explaining my seeming poor hand-eye coordination because I accidentally clicked on a link in an email from the fscking HR department. Don't these people have enough work to do?

    • by CompMD (522020) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:28AM (#26694547)

      The real solution is to simply tell all respondents that they have won an all expense paid vacation. Send them some fake e-ticket to print out and tell them where to go, and then just put them all on a rocket to the sun. Problem solved.

    • by Davemania (580154)
      It is not just a technological problem. It is both a social and technological problem and technology itself can not address the randomness of human minds (stupidity, over confidence or ignorance etc). Scammers will always find a way around technology and other approaches have to be considered. I don't consider informing the public as a petty trick, this is something that is being used in real life and should be considered as a viable option.
    • Ick. What a stupid idea.

      The reply rate to spam, if I remember recent numbers recently, is something like one reply in ten million messages sent. To have even a marginal effect on the spam, you'd have to reach at least a million users. So, that means they're proposing that the government send out ten billion spam messages.

      Dumb.

      Much better is to follow the money trail-- the spammers have to have a way to make money. Follow that trail.

      • Much better is to follow the money trail-- the spammers have to have a way to make money. Follow that trail.

        Okay, I followed it to Russia. Now what?

    • by Drakonik (1193977)

      You seem to think that the 'spam problem' is technological. It's not. You remember getting junk mail in your snail-mail box, right? Same concept. There is a medium through which many potential customers can be reached, and is cheaper than the alternative (for paper mail, it's cheaper than going door-to-door, for e-mail, it's cheaper than paper mail).

      Even if sender and receiver are authenticated properly, so what? A spammer will still be able to 1)forge his own authentication or 2)compromise an authentic box

    • by D Ninja (825055)

      I disagree.

      Yes, there are issues with the technology - that's not what I disagree with.

      However, I know at least a few individuals who were fooled by an e-mail that looked legit (banking site), and didn't bother to check the e-mail address, etc.

      The problem is, ultimately, people.

  • Nah, dumb idea.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by King_TJ (85913) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:54AM (#26694129) Journal

    In my experience, many of the people clueless enough to respond to some spam email are also the ones who wouldn't understand the reply that came back to warn them of their behavior.

    (Heck, you wouldn't believe how many people I've had to help out, because a free version of their Windows anti-virus software expired, and they couldn't figure out what to do with the windows popping up to tell them they needed to download the newer version. They thought that stuff meant their anti-virus "broke" because they got a virus!)

  • by Kindaian (577374) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:54AM (#26694133) Homepage

    And it's called more exactly honey-pots.

  • by patjhal (1423249)
    And the government spam could bilk the gullible out of money just like real spam. They could lower regular taxes by creating this stupidity tax. Also the DOD could spread viruses on this government spam that take over machines to use in web war. And no need to keep it local, it could be worldwide.
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:57AM (#26694163) Homepage

    my school district did the same thing, and it works great.

    It's the best form of targeted training. Only those who fall for shit like this get a lesson, and follow-up fake scams had a MUCH lower success rate.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by socsoc (1116769)
      Really? Sounds ridiculous to me. It's difficult enough to convince people that your work e-mail is for work related matters... I don't need management asking me to sent out a phish attempt to the staff as a test.
      • by uncledrax (112438)

        Pretty sure a local university does that here.. but what they do is if you click through to the site, the SITE itself tells you "Hey Dumbass.. you just got phished.. here's some info and the whys-and-wherefors". (The Site in question would actually be under the admins control and on the LAN)

        I agree with most people here that the follow up email idea is bad because I'm probably MORE likely to ignore an email that says it's from the government

      • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

        The first step in solving ANY problem is identifying it. So, let me ask you this:

        What percentage of your staff is susceptible to a phishing email?

        You don't know, right? How can you find out? A voluntary questionnaire?

        Unfortunately, a phake phishing scam is the only tool you have to gauge the problem. And, coincidentally, it can help IT get the point across to the staff.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by philspear (1142299)

        my school district did the same thing, and it works great.

        Really? Sounds ridiculous to me.

        Sounds to ME like there's a testable hypothesis here, which someone should think about testing rather than just saying it SOUNDS ridiculous.

    • As much as I hate the thought of even more spam coming my way... it makes perfect sense. It'll basically act as a sort of PSA for people that have no idea what they're doing.
    • oblig (Score:2, Funny)

      by LunarCrisis (966179)

      Spam is like XML, if it doesn't solve the problem, use more.

  • Dumbass idea, man (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eggplant62 (120514) on Monday February 02, 2009 @09:58AM (#26694177)

    Sending more spam in the name of eliminating spam is not eliminating spam. It's still creating a mess on people's email servers and personal computers, and storage for much of it adds up, especially at the server level. How about we simply improve our educational system and teach marketing majors a bit more about business ethics and ethical advertising?

    • That's a good argument, but I think you oversimplify.

      The intention behind it is to stop spam, and the results of responding to these emails will lead to the responders answer less in the future (at least in theory).

      While I agree with the principle that "the same energy that creates a problem cannot be used to solve it", this is not the case here.

      For a similar example, there are vaccines that use a dead/weakened virus to trigger an antiviral response from the body (and you could say that sending more viruses

      • Go back to my original response and read the first sentence again: Sending spam to eliminate spam is not eliminating spam.

        If that's too overly simple for you, I don't know of any other way to get the point across.

        • by Ajaxamander (646536) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:30AM (#26694589) Homepage
          The point isn't to eliminate spam TODAY, the point is to eliminate spam TOMORROW. If people who don't understand that it's a scam are taught that it is a scam, then there will be fewer of them. What better way to improve spam/scam education than to target it to those who need it most? The fewer suckers^Wtargets there are, spam becomes a lot less viable of a business model.

          I find your complaints (and, frankly, suggestions) myopic. You can teach ethics all you want, but the basics of human nature show time and time again that it's not guaranteed to stick.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Go back to my original response and read the first sentence again: Sending spam to eliminate spam is not eliminating spam. If that's too overly simple for you, I don't know of any other way to get the point across.

          That's a great sound bite for an audience with an IQ of about 80, but it doesn't hold up to analytical rigor. If you decrease the spam response rate, you make spamming less lucrative, and you have fewer spammers.

          That's still pretty simple, even for sound-bite based logic such as you seem to p

          • Increasing the amount of spam received on anyone's servers is something that I think most admins will tell you is unacceptable. Even a child of 5 could tell you that 2 + 2 does not equal 0.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gurps_npc (621217)
      This isn't spam. It LOOKS like spam. But just as spam looks like a legitiamte message, but isn't, this looks like spam but isn't. It is a message from your BOSS. What you want to do is to force everyone, even those of us smart enough to ignore spam to take meaningless, boring classes about things we already know. As others said, it is targetted training. It is carefully and SUPERBLY designed so that those that don't need the training are not bothered by it. But those idiots that need it, get the t
      • I should amend this: If that's what you want to do with your own email servers at your own business, have at you. But if your fakeass offers end up in my inbox, the server I receive them from will be treated like every other one that sends spam -- reported to major blocklisting facilities and added to local blocklists.

    • by vagabond_gr (762469) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:24AM (#26694493)

      I'm really surprised that phishing and viruses are confused with spam, they are very different things:

      - viruses/phising: really "dangerous" messages. Opening them might lead to a comprimised bank account, PC, etc. In this case fake viruses/phising emails might help, educating people not to open such emails.

      - SPAM: useless but harmless messages that are merely an annoyance to 99.9% of people. The problem is not opening such emails but the mere fact that you receive them. If someone opens spam then he might be actually interested in the advertised products, which is not bad, the problem is only that the same email is sent to thousands of people who are not. Sending fake spam to educate people not to open spam is just stupid. I don't think spam has anything to do with this article, the word has been just incorrectly used.

      • Since I never open spam, I don't know how many messages connect to sites that really sell the advertised products, and how many only seem to sell as ruse to get people's credit card numbers. I would presume the latter far outnumber the former. Given that the only way to tell phishing from spam according to your definition is to try to buy something, it seems to me you're making the distinction overly fine.
    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      Why is it a bad idea? The people who wouldn't click on the link embedded in the email won't even bother reading the message. Those that typically fall for phishing attacks are the ones most likely to click on the link.. and maybe they'll learn a lesson.

      I think the "solution" is so simple that it might just actually help. Even if it only educates 1% of the click throughs it has still made an impact. What's the best way to stop phishing? Make it not worth the while.
  • Awful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:00AM (#26694193) Homepage

    This idea is awful for the same reasons that I don't want the local police department entering my home to show me how easy it is to pick my locks.

    The idea smells of John Ashcroft appointees.

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:03AM (#26694213) Homepage

    I did that back in 2001 to the sales force at Comcast. we in the IT department formed and sent a email with a exe file payload. when ran it reported back to us who opened it and pooped up a message on their screen that said, "IF I WAS A REAL VIRUS ALL YOUR FILES WOULD BE DELETED"

    we sent it from outside the company with a yahoo.com address

    85% opened and ran the attachment. we used this as a part of our It education to our users. after the classes that month we repeated it 45 days later.

    we had a 90% opening rate this time. you really can not teach the users. Most people who are not IT professionals dont care. If they hose their own computer they dont have to fix it, you do.

    The only effective thing would be to actually delete all the users files and never give them back. Humans only really learn from cause and effect. Simulations rarely teach them.

    • by u38cg (607297) <calum@callingthetune.co.uk> on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:08AM (#26694277) Homepage
      There was also that university that sent all their students an email to warn them about phishing. Included in the email was a typical phishing text, along with comments on style and grammer. I think the guy that sent it out got something like forty or fifty usernames and passwords back.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hatta (162192)

      The only effective thing would be to actually delete all the users files and never give them back. Humans only really learn from cause and effect. Simulations rarely teach them.

      Fire them all after the 2nd time. The survivors would warn the new hires.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gnavpot (708731)

      85% opened and ran the attachment. we used this as a part of our It education to our users.

      after the classes that month we repeated it 45 days later. we had a 90% opening rate this time.

      you really can not teach the users.

      Yes you can. You taught one third of the remaining 15% that these messages are harmless service bulletins from the IT department - not the dangerous mails they originally thought.

  • by mindstorms (788968) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:05AM (#26694247)

    Your post advocates a

    (x) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

    approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

    ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
    ( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
    ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
    ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
    ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
    (x) Users of email will not put up with it
    ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
    ( ) The police will not put up with it
    ( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
    ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
    ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
    ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
    ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

    Specifically, your plan fails to account for

    ( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
    ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
    ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
    ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
    (x) Asshats
    (x) Jurisdictional problems
    ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
    ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
    ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
    ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
    ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
    ( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
    ( ) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
    ( ) Extreme profitability of spam
    ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
    (x) Technically illiterate politicians
    ( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
    ( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
    ( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
    ( ) Outlook

    and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

    (x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
    been shown practical
    ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
    ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
    ( ) Blacklists suck
    ( ) Whitelists suck
    ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
    ( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
    ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
    ( ) Sending email should be free
    ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
    ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
    (x) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
    ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
    ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
    ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

    Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

    (x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
    ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
    ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your
    house down!

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Exactly.

      which is why we blocked ALL attachments on emails except for zip files. and as far as I know that limit is still in place.

      The users whined for 3 months. then they got over it.

      worked great. The only way to get a user to stop doing things is to slap their hands. They refused to be smart opening attachments, so we took away attachments.

      Last I knew they were sending out a group policy that disabled script execution in Office as well, I no longer have anyone on the inside since the last 2 rounds of l

    • I like your checklist. Lots of really good points there.

      I'm just not quite sure that I agree with this one, however:

      ( ) Sending email should be free

      First, philosophically, I'm not sure I agree with any statement that anything "should" be free. What does "should" mean here? I can list ten thousand things that "should" be free, and if I had my choice, food, shelter, medical care, and beer (free, as in beer) all "should" be free. I'd call all of these higher priority than listing which internet services "should" be free.

      Second, why sh

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        You do realize that's not written by mindstorms, and is just a standard form to be used in all discussions of how to solve spam, right? You can find it at http://craphound.com/spamsolutions.txt [craphound.com].

        It came about because there are so many "this is how to solve spam" posts with the same set of flaws, so this simply radically sped up the process of demonstrating why the plan wouldn't work.

    • by pikine (771084) on Monday February 02, 2009 @01:07PM (#26696891) Journal

      Your post advocates a

      ( ) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based (X) vigilante

      Sending out spam to counter spam is bringing justice by breaking a law.

      approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

      ( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses

      (X) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected

      These mailing lists as well as end users would have to deal with additional volume of spam.

      ( ) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
      ( ) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
      ( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
      (x) Users of email will not put up with it
      ( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
      ( ) The police will not put up with it
      ( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
      ( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
      ( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
      ( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
      ( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

      Specifically, your plan fails to account for

      (X) Laws expressly prohibiting it

      ( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
      ( ) Open relays in foreign countries
      ( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
      (x) Asshats
      (x) Jurisdictional problems
      ( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
      ( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
      ( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
      ( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
      ( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
      ( ) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes

      (X) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches (you need to compete with spam filters)
      (X) Extreme profitability of spam

      ( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
      (x) Technically illiterate politicians

      (X) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers (they never learn)

      ( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves

      (X) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering (you're adding to the volume of spam bandwidth)

      ( ) Outlook

      and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

      (x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever
      been shown practical
      ( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
      ( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
      ( ) Blacklists suck
      ( ) Whitelists suck
      ( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored

      (X) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
      (X) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks

      ( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
      ( ) Sending email should be free
      ( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
      ( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
      (x) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
      ( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
      ( ) I don't want the government reading my email
      ( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

      Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

      (x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
      ( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
      ( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your
      house down!

  • Perhaps (Score:3, Funny)

    by lord_sarpedon (917201) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:05AM (#26694249)

    Perhaps they could hire some kind of outside contractor - with an extensive botnet and lots of spam-sending experience - at some ridiculous fee! I'm sure with significant compensation, these professionals could be convinced to spam the DoJ.

    In all seriousness, all this will do is make a certain few people very very sad inside when they see just how easy it is to fool the common deskmonkey, and just how much info you can get. At best, some of those certain few people will become motivated to make it their profession...

  • From my garbage Gmail account with swearing and flame. Yes, I do have some free time to waste, as obvious.
  • by paulthomas (685756) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:10AM (#26694315) Journal

    Let me get this straight -- we should suggest to people who are highly credulous that there is the possibility that they might receive legitimate email from "suitably important-looking government address"?

    That will never cause bigger, more successful phishing scams.

  • If fake spam messages offering all the usual benefits, and employing all the usual tricks, were sent out by national security agencies around the world, it would select precisely the people who tend to respond to spam. The agencies could then contact them from a suitably important-looking government address, warning about what could have happened. Some might become more cautious as a result, others will not. But again, it is precisely the latter who are more likely to respond to further fake spam messages i

  • Infotainment (Score:5, Interesting)

    by freedumb2000 (966222) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:42AM (#26694771)
    If anyone really, the media (TV, print ect.) should step in and educate. I bet if Regis did a bit on some common sense ways to spot and avoid spam and phishing, that I am sure would go a long way to educate the average joe/mom about the dangers. Or a 60 minutes on Spam. A bit on MSNBC. I column in a monthly rag. In my experience people are very curious and/or afraid of getting infected or spammed and enjoy any helpful information that they can put to use right away to protect themselfs.
  • How about we use the government resources directly against the spammers?

    1. Set up false fronts to buy the products.

    2. Trace the transactions.

    3. Establish a swift death penalty for whoever receives the funds.

    Yes, this would need safeguards - for instance when spammers start threatening to send out spam for products from businesses other than their own, to blackmail those businesses with threat of government response. But for instance when the payment can be traced directly to a Canadian "pharmacy," simply ex

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Be sure to make some special playing cards with "Ace of spam" printed on them to leave at the scene.

      Anonymous killings don't achieve anything.

  • We are at the border of the abyss, but we will take a step forward. Adding spam to the system will do in the short term more harm than good, and in the long term? People that follow the spam links probably have not enough discern to learn the lesson, or even worse, the spam will start coming with a "this time we are serious" warning to take distance from that experiment.

    Could be of consideration taking control of domains/URLs very refered by spam, and instead of taking them down (by the hosting ISPs or what
  • Forbidden in Austria (Score:4, Interesting)

    by I)_MaLaClYpSe_(I (447961) on Monday February 02, 2009 @10:57AM (#26694989)

    I once wanted to do such a thing for my employer: sending out fake "Enter your login credentials here to win xxx" emails to our staff and invite those that responded with submitting their true credentials to security awareness trainings. However, it turned out that this would have been a violation of privacy rights here in Austria, Europe.

    The employer could have been able to discriminate people for falling for the scam and thus it is illegal for my company to do such a thing.

  • This is really easy, and it even works in Darwinism.

    What if instead of continually repeating the exercise, the recipients of the fake spam get gently berated if they take the bait the first time. Then, if they fall for it again, a couple of guys in black suits and sunglasses show up at midnight to offer the option of "the pill" or a "bullet".

    I think that would cut down on a lot of spam response.

    Alternately, if someone falls for the v14gra spam more than once, send cyanide pills instead of viagra.

  • by srussia (884021) on Monday February 02, 2009 @11:26AM (#26695391)
    Catch-and-Release
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday February 02, 2009 @06:05PM (#26701165)
    Sending out spam to decrease spam is like having sex to increase virginity.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro..." -- Hunter S. Thompson

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