I was wondering WTF was up with all the goddam spam lately. I had chalked it up as just being symptomatic of the Christmas season, when retailers, online and off, all hawk their wares. Apparently, not.

The big problem these days is that the spammers have enlisted an army of robot zombie computers to do their evil bidding.  Which, in a Beavis/Butthead kind of way is a cool concept. If only they were doing it to accomplish world domination or get rid of sucky hair bands, then that’s be OK.

Unfortunately, the spam these days is all in the “Hi, it’s Frieda” subject line, with an image of the text about some shitty pump’n’dump stock or cheap-ass imitation Viagra.

The use of botnets to send spam would not matter as much if e-mail
filters could still make effective use of the second spam-fighting
strategy: analyzing the content of an incoming message. Traditional
antispam software examines the words in a text message and, using
statistical techniques, determines if the words are more likely to make
up a legitimate message or a piece of spam.

The explosion of
image spam this year has largely thwarted that approach. Spammers have
used images in their messages for years, in most cases to offer a peek
at a pornographic Web site, or to illustrate the effectiveness of their
miracle drugs. But as more of their text-based messages started being
blocked, spammers searched for new methods and realized that putting
their words inside the image could frustrate text filtering. The use of
other people’s computers to send their bandwidth-hogging e-mail made
the tactic practical.

It is amazing the techiques that spammers have adopted – apparently, the software that stopped spam relied on finding the same words in the same messages – that is, if you send out a million messages all saying “Eat at Joe’s,” the servers would recognize that message and kill your spam.  The spammers got around that by programming code that would take random snippets of text and stick that in the message beneath their sleazy come-on. 

Now that it’s images that are being sent, the bots change AS LITTLE AS ONE PIXEL in a picture, or put in noise and scratches so the OCR software can’t zero in on the craptastic ad. 

Why do the spammers continue to bother?  Well, it pays off.  Sadly, the average netuser is still an utter and complete dunderhead.

Though the scam sounds obvious, a joint study by researchers at Purdue University and Oxford University
this summer found that spam stock cons work. Enough recipients buy the
stock that spammers can make a 5 percent to 6 percent return in two
days, the study concluded.

This is really depressing. The fact that there are still people out there dumb enough to click on an attached image in a mail message obviously not meant for them, and to go “Hmm.  Wowee, Myrtle, lookee here, there’s a stock that is just about to go ballistic. We gotta get in on the ground floor o’ that!”

The adage about suckers should be updated to “A sucker and his money were lucky to get together in the first place.”

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