The Week In Spam

Over the years, I’ve received an enormous amount of spam – I’m quite positive I’m not alone in that respect. My mail server currently rejects over 95% of all mail, something in the region of five to ten thousand spam messages a day. A good amount still make it through the mail-filter though. So every now and then, I look over my ever growing spam box to see if there are any trends, anything to train my filters to work more effectively or, hardly believably, occasionally even something amusing. In “the week in spam” I’ll pick out some messages which usually don’t merit a second look.

I said what?

This week, I’ve picked out “replies to messages I didn’t send”. I sometimes wonder how the mind of a spammer works. It seems reasonable to believe that whoever plasters people’s mailboxes with junk would have at least a passing interest in having the messages read and reacted on – after all, the reason why spam is still such a problem must be that there is still return on investment. I can understand then that the subject lines of spams are sometimes kept fairly non-descriptive. Everybody receives messages titled “Hey”, “WOW” or similar. These subjects don’t ring any alarm bells, arguably not even when they come from people the recipient doesn’t recognise.

This changes completely, however, when the spammers add a “RE:” to the subject. Suddenly, it’s no longer a simple “Hello” from somebody, but apparently a reply to a “Hello” the recipient sent to someone… and as the sender isn’t known to the recipient (unless the random female-name-generator – 100% of those messages pretend to be from females – happens to pick the right name out of tens of thousands), the message can hardly be a reply to an earlier outgoing message and can easily be recognised as fake.

Besides, as for the sixth message in the screenshot: I’m certain I never ever sent a message with this particular subject line, thank you very much.


4 March 2014

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