- Great Painters
- Accounting
- Fundamentals of Law
- Marketing
- Shorthand
- Concept Cars
- Videogames
- The World of Sports

- Blogs
- Free Software
- Google
- My Computer

- PHP Language and Applications
- Wikipedia
- Windows Vista

- Education
- Masterpieces of English Literature
- American English

- English Dictionaries
- The English Language

- Medical Emergencies
- The Theory of Memory
- The Beatles
- Dances
- Microphones
- Musical Notation
- Music Instruments
- Batteries
- Nanotechnology
- Cosmetics
- Diets
- Vegetarianism and Veganism
- Christmas Traditions
- Animals

- Fruits And Vegetables


  1. Adobe Reader
  2. Adware
  3. Altavista
  4. AOL
  5. Apple Macintosh
  6. Application software
  7. Arrow key
  8. Artificial Intelligence
  9. ASCII
  10. Assembly language
  11. Automatic translation
  12. Avatar
  13. Babylon
  14. Bandwidth
  15. Bit
  16. BitTorrent
  17. Black hat
  18. Blog
  19. Bluetooth
  20. Bulletin board system
  21. Byte
  22. Cache memory
  23. Celeron
  24. Central processing unit
  25. Chat room
  26. Client
  27. Command line interface
  28. Compiler
  29. Computer
  30. Computer bus
  31. Computer card
  32. Computer display
  33. Computer file
  34. Computer games
  35. Computer graphics
  36. Computer hardware
  37. Computer keyboard
  38. Computer networking
  39. Computer printer
  40. Computer program
  41. Computer programmer
  42. Computer science
  43. Computer security
  44. Computer software
  45. Computer storage
  46. Computer system
  47. Computer terminal
  48. Computer virus
  49. Computing
  50. Conference call
  51. Context menu
  52. Creative commons
  53. Creative Commons License
  54. Creative Technology
  55. Cursor
  56. Data
  57. Database
  58. Data storage device
  59. Debuggers
  60. Demo
  61. Desktop computer
  62. Digital divide
  63. Discussion groups
  64. DNS server
  65. Domain name
  66. DOS
  67. Download
  68. Download manager
  69. DVD-ROM
  70. DVD-RW
  71. E-mail
  72. E-mail spam
  73. File Transfer Protocol
  74. Firewall
  75. Firmware
  76. Flash memory
  77. Floppy disk drive
  78. GNU
  79. GNU General Public License
  80. GNU Project
  81. Google
  82. Google AdWords
  83. Google bomb
  84. Graphics
  85. Graphics card
  86. Hacker
  87. Hacker culture
  88. Hard disk
  89. High-level programming language
  90. Home computer
  91. HTML
  92. Hyperlink
  93. IBM
  94. Image processing
  95. Image scanner
  96. Instant messaging
  97. Instruction
  98. Intel
  99. Intel Core 2
  100. Interface
  101. Internet
  102. Internet bot
  103. Internet Explorer
  104. Internet protocols
  105. Internet service provider
  106. Interoperability
  107. IP addresses
  108. IPod
  109. Joystick
  110. JPEG
  111. Keyword
  112. Laptop computer
  113. Linux
  114. Linux kernel
  115. Liquid crystal display
  116. List of file formats
  117. List of Google products
  118. Local area network
  119. Logitech
  120. Machine language
  121. Mac OS X
  122. Macromedia Flash
  123. Mainframe computer
  124. Malware
  125. Media center
  126. Media player
  127. Megabyte
  128. Microsoft
  129. Microsoft Windows
  130. Microsoft Word
  131. Mirror site
  132. Modem
  133. Motherboard
  134. Mouse
  135. Mouse pad
  136. Mozilla Firefox
  137. Mp3
  138. MPEG
  139. MPEG-4
  140. Multimedia
  141. Musical Instrument Digital Interface
  142. Netscape
  143. Network card
  144. News ticker
  145. Office suite
  146. Online auction
  147. Online chat
  148. Open Directory Project
  149. Open source
  150. Open source software
  151. Opera
  152. Operating system
  153. Optical character recognition
  154. Optical disc
  155. output
  156. PageRank
  157. Password
  158. Pay-per-click
  159. PC speaker
  160. Peer-to-peer
  161. Pentium
  162. Peripheral
  163. Personal computer
  164. Personal digital assistant
  165. Phishing
  166. Pirated software
  167. Podcasting
  168. Pointing device
  169. POP3
  170. Programming language
  171. QuickTime
  172. Random access memory
  173. Routers
  174. Safari
  175. Scalability
  176. Scrollbar
  177. Scrolling
  178. Scroll wheel
  179. Search engine
  180. Security cracking
  181. Server
  182. Simple Mail Transfer Protocol
  183. Skype
  184. Social software
  185. Software bug
  186. Software cracker
  187. Software library
  188. Software utility
  189. Solaris Operating Environment
  190. Sound Blaster
  191. Soundcard
  192. Spam
  193. Spamdexing
  194. Spam in blogs
  195. Speech recognition
  196. Spoofing attack
  197. Spreadsheet
  198. Spyware
  199. Streaming media
  200. Supercomputer
  201. Tablet computer
  202. Telecommunications
  203. Text messaging
  204. Trackball
  205. Trojan horse
  206. TV card
  207. Unicode
  208. Uniform Resource Identifier
  209. Unix
  210. URL redirection
  211. USB flash drive
  212. USB port
  213. User interface
  214. Vlog
  215. Voice over IP
  216. Warez
  217. Wearable computer
  218. Web application
  219. Web banner
  220. Web browser
  221. Web crawler
  222. Web directories
  223. Web indexing
  224. Webmail
  225. Web page
  226. Website
  227. Wiki
  228. Wikipedia
  229. WIMP
  230. Windows CE
  231. Windows key
  232. Windows Media Player
  233. Windows Vista
  234. Word processor
  235. World Wide Web
  236. Worm
  237. XML
  238. X Window System
  239. Yahoo
  240. Zombie computer

This article is from:

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: 

Spam (electronic)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A KMail folder of spam messages.
A KMail folder of spam messages.

Spamming is the abuse of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited, undesired bulk messages. While the most widely recognized form of spam is email spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, and mobile phone messaging spam.

Spamming is economically viable because advertisers have no operating costs beyond the management of their mailing lists, and it is difficult to hold senders accountable for their mass mailings. Because the barrier to entry is so low, spammers are numerous, and the volume of unsolicited mail has become very high. The costs, such as lost productivity and fraud, are borne by the public and by Internet service providers, which add extra capacity to cope with the deluge. Spamming is widely reviled, and has been the subject of legislation in many jurisdictions.

Spamming in different media

Email spam

Main article: E-mail spam

Email spam is the most common form of internet spamming. It involves sending unsolicited commercial messages to many recipients. Unlike legitimate commercial e-mail, spam is generally sent without the explicit permission of the recipients, and frequently contains various tricks to bypass e-mail filtering.

Spammers obtain e-mail addresses by a number of means: harvesting addresses from Usenet postings, DNS listings, or Web pages; guessing common names at known domains (known as a dictionary attack); and "e-pending" or searching for e-mail addresses corresponding to specific persons, such as residents in an area. Many spammers utilize programs called web spiders to find e-mail addresses on web pages (see also address munging).

Many e-mail spammers go to great lengths to conceal the origin of their messages. They might do this by spoofing e-mail addresses (similar to Internet protocol spoofing). The spammer will modify the e-mail message so it looks like it is coming from another e-mail address. However, many spammers make it easy for recipients to identify their messages as spam by placing an ad phrase in the From field. Spammers try to circumvent the email filters by intentionally misspelling common spam filter trigger words. For example, "viagra" might become "vaigra", or other symbols may be inserted into the word as in "v/i/a/g./r/a". E-mail service providers have begun to use the misspellings themselves as a filtering test.

The most dedicated spammers—often those making a great deal of money or engaged in illegal activities, such as the pornography, casinos and Nigerian scam businesses—are often one step ahead of the providers. Retail e-mail services are updated constantly with improved spam filters, keeping track of spammers' technological progress by examining e-mails their users report as spam (many providers today have a prominent button to report spam).

So-called "spambots" are a major producer of e-mail spam. The worst spammers create e-mail viruses that render an unprotected PC a "zombie computer"; the zombie will inform a central unit of its existence, and the central unit will command the "zombie" to send a low volume of spam. This allows spammers to send high volumes of e-mail without being caught by their ISPs or being tracked down by antispammers; a low volume of spam is instead sent from many locations simultaneously.

Bill Gates, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2004, predicted that spam would soon be "a thing of the past", and that Microsoft was working on several temporary solutions, as well as on a permanent "magic solution", to spam. [1]

Messaging spam

Main article: Messaging spam

Messaging spam, sometimes termed spim (a portmanteau of spam and IM, short for instant messenger), makes use of instant messaging systems, such as AOL Instant Messenger or ICQ. Many IM systems offer a user directory, including demographic information that allows an advertiser to gather the information, sign on to the system, and send unsolicited messages. To send instant messages to millions of users requires scriptable software and the recipients' IM usernames. Spammers have similarly targeted Internet Relay Chat channels, using IRC bots that join channels and bombard them with advertising.

Messenger service spam has lent itself to spammer use in a particularly circular scheme. In many cases, messenger spammers send messages to vulnerable Windows machines consisting of text like "Annoyed by these messages? Visit this site." The link leads to a Web site where, for a fee, users are told how to disable the Windows messenger service. Though the messenger service is easily disabled for free, the scam works because it creates a perceived need and offers a solution. Often the only "annoying messages" the user receives through Messenger are ads to disable Messenger itself.

Chat spam

Main article: Chat spam

Chat spam can occur in any live chat environment like IRC and in-game multiplayer chat of online games. It consists of repeating the same word or sentence many times to get attention or to interfere with normal operations. It is generally considered very rude and may lead to swift exclusion of the user from the used chat service by the owners or moderators.

The application of the name "Spam" to unwanted communication originates in Chat-room spam. Specifically, it was developed in the chat-rooms of People-Link in the early 1980’s as a technique for getting rid of unwelcome newcomers. When someone would enter a chat-room full of friends who were in mid-conversation, and the newcomer tried to turn the conversation in an unwelcome direction (usually trolling for cybersex), two veteran members of the room would begin typing in the Monty Python “Spam” routine at high speed. They would fill the screen with “Spam Spam Spam eggs Spam Spam and Spam” etc, and make all other communication impossible. The other members of the room would just wait quietly until the newcomer got disgusted and moved on to a different room.

Newsgroup spam and Forum spam

Main article: Newsgroup spam
Main article: Forum spam

Newsgroup spam predates e-mail spam, and targets Usenet newsgroups and it consists of repetitious posting of a message (or substantially similar messages). The Breidbart Index was developed to provide an objective measure of the "spamminess" of a multi-posted or cross-posted message on Usenet. Spamming in an internet forum is when a user posts a message that is off-topic, has little relevance to the subject being discussed, or is a post that fails to contribute to the thread. Lastly, there is also the case where a person posts messages solely for the purpose of increasing his forum ranking.

Online message boards can sometimes be spammed with tens of thousands of meaningless messages in a few hours. The spam need not be restricted to the creation of new meaningless threads, it can involve the 'revival' of obsolete threads dating many weeks or months.

A recent form of forum spam is where a member registers, he/she never posts, but puts spam in his/her profile. (The members website is of porn or any other spam-related site.)

Mobile phone spam

Main article: Mobile phone spam

Mobile phone spam is directed at the text messaging service of a mobile phone. This can be especially irritating to customers not only for the inconvenience but also because of the fee that they are charged per text message. The term "SpaSMS" was coined at the adnews website Adland in 2000 to describe spam SMS.

Online game messaging spam

Many online games allow players to contact each other via player-to-player messaging, chatrooms, or public discussion areas. What qualifies as spam varies from game to game, but usually this term applies to all forms of message flooding, violating the terms of service contract for the website.

Spam targeting search engines (Spamdexing)

Main article: Spamdexing

Spamdexing (a portmanteau of spamming and indexing) refers to the practice on the World Wide Web of modifying HTML pages to increase the chances of them being placed high on search engine relevancy lists. It uses unethical means, "black hat SEO techniques." to unfairly increase the rank of sites in search engines. Many modern search engines modified their search algorithms to try to exclude web pages utilizing spamdexing tactics.

Blog, wiki, and guestbook spam

Main article: Spam in blogs

Blog spam, or "blam" for short is spamming on weblogs. In 2003, this type of spam took advantage of the open nature of comments in the blogging software Movable Type by repeatedly placing comments to various blog posts that provided nothing more than a link to the spammer's commercial web site. [2] Similar attacks are often performed against wikis and guestbooks, both of which accept user contributions.

Commercial uses

The most common purpose for spamming is advertising. Goods commonly advertised in spam include pornography, unlicensed computer software, pills such as Viagra, credit card accounts, and fad products. Many of the products advertised are fraudulent in nature, such as quack medications and get-rich-quick schemes. Spam is frequently used to advertise scams, such as diploma mills, advance fee fraud, pyramid schemes, stock pump-and-dump schemes, and phishing.

Comparison with postal "junk" mail

There are a number of differences between spam and postal junk mail:

  • The costs of spam paid by the recipient's mail site, unlike junk postal mail, commonly approach or exceed the sender's costs, in terms of bandwidth, CPU processing time, and storage space. Spammers frequently use free dial-up accounts, so their costs may be minimal. Because of this offloading of costs, many consider spamming to be criminal conversion or theft.
  • Bulk mail is used by businesses that can be held responsible for what they send. Spammers frequently operate on a fly-by-night basis, using the anonymity of the Internet as their cover.
  • Postal junk mailers do not mask unsolicited pornographic material with a legitimate appearance so that it can be delivered to your mailbox. There are rules about the way sexually explicit materials are packaged, whereas spam has no limitations on what is viewable as soon as it is opened.

Noncommercial spam

E-mail and other forms of spamming have been used for purposes other than advertisements. Many early Usenet spams were religious or political. Serdar Argic, for instance, spammed Usenet with historical revisionist screeds. A number of evangelists have spammed Usenet and e-mail media with preaching messages. A growing number of criminals are also using spam to perpetrate various sorts of fraud,[3] and in some cases have used it to lure people to locations where they have been kidnapped, held for ransom, and even murdered. [4]

Hobbit Spam

In early July 2006 there has been an enormous increase in unsolicited messages from a spoofed address with approximately half a dozen random letter subjects, containing nothing but three lines from JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. This follows fairly closely another similar form dubbed "discordian poetry" that appeared to used a random word generator of the same. The messages had no attempt to sell anything; it was theorised that this was a script kiddie ineptly running a spam suite. This was confirmed when shortly afterward the same format messages began appearing with image files overlaying the text (a common spam technique). It is suspected to be a variation from the same source and image overlays will begin appearing. [5]

Spam as denial of service

Spamming has also been used as a denial of service ("DoS") tactic, particularly on Usenet. By overwhelming the readers of a newsgroup with an inordinate number of nonsense messages, legitimate messages and computing resources can be lost in the deluge. Since these messages are usually forged (that is, sent falsely under regular posters' names) this tactic has come to be known as sporgery (from spam + forgery). This tactic has for instance been used by members of the Church of Scientology against the alt.religion.scientology newsgroup (see Scientology vs. the Internet) and by spammers against, a forum for mail administrators to discuss spam problems. Applied to e-mail, this is termed mailbombing. The Usenet Meow Wars (around 1996) were DoS attacks on various newsgroups aimed at specific posters that disrupted the newsgroups where they were active. The DoS attacks launched by Hipcrime, which continue today, are more crafted as DoS attacks on entire newsgroups. The newsgroups were rendered uninhabitable by commercial porn site spammers, partially for advertising purposes and partially to destroy a perceived free competitor. (This spawned the creation of the moderated, unspammable soc.sexuality newsgroups.)

Forged e-mail spam has been used as a tool of harassment. The spammer collects a list of addresses, then sends a spam to them signed with the name of the person he or she wishes to harass. Some recipients, angry they received spam and seeing an obvious "source", will respond angrily or pursue revenge against the apparent spammer, the forgery victim. A widely known victim of this sort of harassment was Joe's CyberPost,[6] which has lent its name to the offense: it is known as a joe job. "Joe jobs" have been used against antispammers: in recent examples, Steve Linford of Spamhaus Project and Timothy Walton, a California attorney, have been targeted. Sometimes victims (such as ROKSO-listed spammers) are subscribed to lists that don't practice verified opt-in, such as magazine subscriptions and e-mail newsletters, a practise known as subscriptionbombing.

Spammers have abused resources set up for the purposes of anonymous speech online, such as anonymous remailers. Many of these resources have been shut down, denying their services to legitimate users.

E-mail worms or viruses may be spammed to set up an initial pool of infected machines, which resend the virus to other machines in a spam-like manner. The infected machines can often be used as remote-controlled zombie computers, for more spamming or DDoS attacks. trojans are spammed to phish for bank account details, or to set up a pool of zombies without using a virus.

In Gaming

Main article: Spam (computer game)

The term "spamming" is used to mean something repetitious and disruptive by players ("spammers") of various video games, most often first-person shooters or fighting games. For shooters, it refers to "area denial" tactics—repeatedly firing rockets, grenades, explosive shells into an area—or to any tactic where a large volume of ammunition is expended in the hope of either scoring chance hits, covering teammates's advance with suppressive fire, clearing, or defending an area from an enemy. In fighting games, spamming refers to overuse of particularly powerful moves, especially if they are easy to use.

Whether such tactics are viewed as cheating or abuse varies from game to game, community to community. Analogous to camping, the tactical advantage gained by those engaged is the crux of the issue. If every player defensively "spams", and no one makes the offensive push, there will be no opportunities for players to come into conflict, and there will be no game. Games like Capture the Flag help to break this deadlock by providing incentive to invade enemy territory.

The same term may be used to describe those who flood the in-game chat with frequent messaging, similar to messaging spam mentioned above. Excessive messaging is unwelcome among most games. However, in the role-playing games MUD, MUSH, and MUCK, players happily continue using the word spam in its original sense, with no implication of abuse. When a player returns to the terminal after a brief break to find his or her screen wonderfully filled with pages of random chat, it's still called "spam".

Players of MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft who use a single move repeatedly to gain benefits are often referred to as "spamming" that move. This is seen as a "cheap" maneuver in PvP combat, but it is sometimes used as a viable tactic against powerful boss monsters. In World of Warcraft, specific moves are more likely to be spammed than others, and one of the most common is the Moonfire spell used by Druids. Blizzard referenced this in an April Fool's Day prank; one of the items on the menu of their fictional upcoming chain of restaurants, "Burgercraft" was "Moonfire Spam". [7]


Main article: History of spamming

The term spam is derived from the Monty Python SPAM sketch (see video in External Links), set in a cafe where nearly every item on the menu includes SPAM luncheon meat. As the server recites the SPAM-filled menu, a chorus of Viking patrons drowns out all conversations with a song repeating "SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, SPAM... lovely SPAM, wonderful SPAM," hence "SPAMming" the dialogue. The excessive amount of SPAM mentioned in the sketch is a reference to British rationing during World War II. SPAM was one of the few foods that was widely available.

Although the first known instance of unsolicited commercial e-mail] occurred in 1978[8] (unsolicited electronic messaging had already taken place over other media, with the first recorded instance being via telegram on September 13, 1904[citation needed]), the term "spam" for this practice had not yet been applied. In the 1980s the term was adopted to describe certain abusive users who frequented BBSs and MUDs, who would repeat "SPAM" a huge number of times to scroll other users' text off the screen. [9] In early Chat rooms services like PeopleLink and the early days of AOL, they actually flooded the screen with quotes from the Monty Python Spam sketch. This was used as a tactic by insiders of a group that wanted to drive newcomers out of the room so the usual conversation could continue. It was also used to prevent members of rival groups from chatting -- for instance, Star Wars fans often invaded Star Trek chat rooms, filling the space with blocks of text until the Star Trek fans left.[10] This act, previously called flooding or trashing, came to be known as spamming. [11] The term was soon applied to a large amount of text broadcasted by many users.

It later came to be used on Usenet to mean excessive multiple posting—the repeated posting of the same message. The first usage of this sense was by Joel Furr in the aftermath of the ARMM incident of March 31, 1993, in which a piece of experimental software released dozens of recursive messages onto the news.admin.policy newsgroup. This use had also become established—to spam Usenet was flooding newsgroups with junk messages.

Commercial spamming started in force on March 5, 1994, when a pair of lawyers, Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, began using bulk Usenet posting to advertise immigration law services. The incident was commonly termed the "Green Card spam", after the subject line of the postings. The two went on to widely promote spamming of both Usenet and e-mail as a new means of advertisement—over the objections of Internet users they labeled "anti-commerce radicals." Within a few years, the focus of spamming (and antispam efforts) moved chiefly to e-mail, where it remains today. [12]

There are three popular false etymologies of the word "spam". The first, promulgated by Canter & Siegel themselves, is that "spamming" is what happens when one dumps a can of SPAM luncheon meat into a fan blade. The second is the backronym "shit posing as mail." The third is similar, using "stupid pointless annoying messages."

Hormel Foods Corporation, the makers of SPAM luncheon meat, do not object to the Internet use of the term "spamming." However, they do ask that the capitalized word "SPAM" be reserved to refer to their product and trademark.[13] By and large, this request is obeyed in forums which discuss spam—to the extent that to write "SPAM" for "spam" brands the writer as a n00b. In Hormel Foods v SpamArrest, Hormel attempted to assert its trademark rights against SpamArrest, a software company, from using the mark "spam," since Hormel owns the trademark. In a dilution claim, Hormel argued that Spam Arrest's use of the term "spam" has engendered and damaged "substantial goodwill and good reputation" in connection with its trademarked lunch meat and related products. Hormel also asserts that Spam Arrest's name so closely resembles its luncheon meat that the public might become confused, or might think that Hormel endorses Spam Arrest's products. Hormel did not prevail. Attorney Derek Newman responded on behalf of Spam Arrest: "Spam has become ubiquitous throughout the world to describe unsolicited commercial e-mail. No company can claim trademark rights on a generic term." While Hormel stated on its website: "Ultimately, we are trying to avoid the day when the consuming public asks, 'Why would Hormel Foods name its product after junk email?'"

More recently two failed attempts to revoke the mark "spambuster".[14]

Costs of spam

The California legislature found that spam cost United States organizations alone more than $10 billion in 2004, including lost productivity and the additional equipment, software, and manpower needed to combat the problem.

Spam's direct effects include the consumption of computer and network resources, and the cost in human time and attention of dismissing unwanted messages. In addition, spam has costs stemming from the kinds of spam messages sent, from the ways spammers send them, and from the arms race between spammers and those who try to stop or control spam. In addition, there are the opportunity cost of those who forgo the use of spam-afflicted systems. There are the direct costs, as well as the indirect costs borne by the victims - both those related to the spamming itself, and to other crimes that usually accompany it, such as financial theft, identity theft, data and intellectual property theft, virus and other malware infection, child pornography, fraud, and deceptive marketing.

The methods of spammers are likewise costly. Because spamming contravenes the vast majority of ISPs' acceptable-use policies, most spammers have for many years gone to some trouble to conceal the origins of their spam. E-mail, Usenet, and instant-message spam are often sent through insecure proxy servers belonging to unwilling third parties. Spammers frequently use false names, addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information to set up "disposable" accounts at various Internet service providers. In some cases, they have used falsified or stolen credit card numbers to pay for these accounts. This allows them to quickly move from one account to the next as each one is discovered and shut down by the host ISPs.

The costs of spam also include the collateral costs of the struggle between spammers and the administrators and users of the media threatened by spamming. [15]

Many users are bothered by spam because it impinges upon the amount of time they spend reading their e-mail. Many also find the content of spam frequently offensive, in that pornography is one of the most frequently advertised products. Spammers send their spam largely indiscriminately, so pornographic ads may show up in a work place e-mail inbox—or a child's, the latter of which is illegal in many jurisdictions. Recently, there has been a noticeable increase in spam advertising websites that contain child pornography.

Some spammers argue that most of these costs could potentially be alleviated by having spammers reimburse ISPs and individuals for their material. There are two problems with this logic: first, the rate of reimbursement they could credibly budget is not nearly high enough to pay the direct costs; and second, the human cost (lost mail, lost time, and lost opportunities) is basically unrecoverable.

E-mail spam exemplifies a tragedy of the commons: spammers use resources (both physical and human), without bearing the entire cost of those resources. In fact, spammers commonly do not bear the cost at all. This raises the costs for everyone. In some ways spam is even a potential threat to the entire e-mail system, as operated in the past.

Since e-mail is so cheap to send, a tiny number of spammers can saturate the Internet with junk mail. Although only a tiny percentage of their targets are motivated to purchase their products (or fall victim to their scams), the low cost may provide a sufficient conversion rate to keep the spamming alive. Furthermore, even though spam appears not to be economically viable as a way for a reputable company to do business, it suffices for professional spammers to convince a tiny proportion of gullible advertisers that it is viable for those spammers to stay in business. Finally, new spammers go into business every day, and the low costs allow a single spammer to do a lot of harm before finally realizing that the business is not profitable.

Some companies and groups "rank" spammers; spammers who make the news are sometimes referred to by these rankings.[16][17] The necessary secretiveness of the operations makes uncertainty about how they actually determine "how bad" a spammer is unavoidable. Also, spammers may target different networks to different extents, depending on how successful they are at attacking the target. Thus considerable resources are employed to actually measure the amount of spam generated by a single person or group. For example, victims that use common antispam hardware, software or services provide opportunities for such tracking. Nevertheless, such rankings should be taken with a grain of salt.

General Costs of Spam

In all cases listed above, including both commercial and non-commercial, "spam happens" due to a positive Cost-benefit analysis result.

Cost is the combination of

  • Overhead: The costs and overhead of electronic spamming include bandwidth, developing or acquiring an email/wiki/blog spam tool, taking over or acquiring a host/zombie, etc.
  • Transaction cost: The incremental cost of contacting each additional recipient once a method of spamming is constructed, multiplied by the number of recipients. (see CAPTCHA as a method of increasing transaction costs)
  • Risks: Chance and severity of legal and/or public reactions, including damages and punitive damages
  • Damage: Impact on the community and/or communication channels being spammed (see Newsgroup spam)

Benefit is the total expected profit from spam, which may include any combination of the commercial and non-commercial reasons listed above. It is normally linear, based on the incremental benefit of reaching each additional spam recipient, combined with the conversion rate.

Spam is prevalent on the Internet because the transaction cost of electronic communications is radically less than any alternate form of communication, far outweighing the current potential losses, as seen by the amount of spam currently in existence. Spam continues to spread to new forms of electronic communication as the gain (number of potential recipients) increases to levels where the cost/benefit becomes positive. Spam has most recently evolved to include wikispam and blogspam as the levels of readership increase to levels where the overhead is no longer the dominating factor. According to the above analysis, spam levels will continue to increase until the cost/benefit analysis is balanced [citation needed].

Political issues

Spamming remains a hot discussion topic. In fact, many online users have even suggested (though they were presumably joking) that cruel forms of capital punishment would be appropriate for spammers. In 2004, the seized Porsche of an indicted spammer was advertised on the internet; this revealed the extent of the financial rewards available to those who are willing to commit duplicitous acts online. However, some of the possible means used to stop spamming may lead to other side effects, such as increased government control over the Internet, loss of privacy, barriers to free expression, and even the commercialization of e-mail.

One of the chief values favored by many long-time Internet users and experts, as well as by many members of the public, is the free exchange of ideas. Many have valued the relative anarchy of the Internet, and bridle at the idea of restrictions placed upon it. A common refrain from spam-fighters is that spamming itself abridges the historical freedom of the Internet, by attempting to force users to carry the costs of material which they would not choose.

An ongoing concern expressed by parties such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU has to do with so-called "stealth blocking", a term for ISPs employing aggressive spam blocking without their users' knowledge. These groups' concern is that ISPs or technicians seeking to reduce spam-related costs may select tools which (either through error or design) also block non-spam e-mail from sites seen as "spam-friendly". SPEWS is a common target of these criticisms. Few object to the existence of these tools; it is their use in filtering the mail of users who are not informed of their use which draws fire.

Some see spam-blocking tools as a threat to free expression—and laws against spamming as an untoward precedent for regulation or taxation of e-mail and the Internet at large. Even though it is possible in some jurisdictions to treat some spam as unlawful merely by applying existing laws against trespass and conversion, some laws specifically targeting spam have been proposed. In 2004, United States passed the Can Spam Act of 2003 which provided ISPs with tools to combat spam. This act allowed Yahoo! to successfully sue Eric Head, reportedly one of the biggest spammers in the world, who settled the lawsuit for several thousand U.S. dollars in June 2004. But the law is criticized by many for not being effective enough. Indeed, the law was supported by some spammers and organizations which support spamming, and opposed by many in the antispam community. Examples of effective anti-abuse laws that respect free speech rights include those in the U.S. against unsolicited faxes and phone calls, and those in Australia and a few U.S. states against spam.

In November 2004, Lycos Europe released a screensaver called make LOVE not SPAM which made Distributed Denial of Service attacks on the spammers themselves. It met with a large amount of controversy and the initiative ended in December 2004.

Court cases

Attorney Laurence Canter was disbarred by the Supreme Court of Tennessee in 1997 for sending prodigious amounts of spam advertising his immigration law practice.

Robert Soloway lost a case in a federal court against the operator of a small Oklahoma-based Internet service provider who accused him of spamming. U.S. Judge Ralph G. Thompson granted a motion by plaintiff Robert Braver for a default judgment and permanent injunction against him. The judgment includes a statutory damages award of $10,075,000 under Oklahoma law. [18]

In the first successful case of its kind, Mr. Nigel Roberts from the Channel Islands won £270 against Media Logistics UK who sent junk e-mails to his personal account. [19]



  1. ^ Gates reveals his 'magic solution' to spam - CNET News, 2004-01-26
  2. ^ The (Evil) Genius of Comment Spammers - Wired Magazine, March 2004
  3. ^ See: Advance fee fraud
  4. ^ SA cops, Interpol probe murder -, 2004-12-31
  5. ^ Just An Online Minute... Hobbit Spam - MediaPost Publications, 2006-07-13
  6. ^ Spam Attack! - Joe's CyberPost
  7. ^ Blizzard Entertainment Presents Burgercraft -, 2006-04-01
  8. ^ Reaction to the DEC Spam of 1978
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Origins of Spam in Star Trek chatrooms
  11. ^ Spamming? ( - Google Groups USENET archive, 1990-09-26
  12. ^ Origin of the term "spam" to mean net abuse
  13. ^ SPAM and the Internet - Official SPAM Website
  14. ^ Hormel Foods Corpn v Antilles Landscape Investments NV (2005) EWHC 13 (Ch)
  15. ^ Thank the Spammers - William R. James 2003-03-10
  16. ^ Spamhaus' "TOP 10 spam service ISPs"
  17. ^ The 10 Worst ROKSO Spammers
  18. ^ Braver v. Newport Internet Marketing Corporation et al - U.S. District Court - Western District of Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), 2005-02-22
  19. ^ Businessman wins e-mail spam case - BBC News, 2005-12-27


  • others in* hierarchy
  • alt.spam

See also

  • Nigerian spam
  • Phishing
  • E-mail fraud
  • Make money fast
  • Job Scams
  • Internet Troll
  • List of e-mail spammers
  • Social networking spam
  • Identity theft
  • virus (computer)
  • Spamigation
  • Defensive computing

External links

  • Spam Cop Report Spam
  • Video of Monty Pythons Spam sketch
  • Federal Trade Comission page advising people to forward spam e-mail to them
  • E-mail Address Harvesting: How Spammers Reap What You Sow by the Federal Trade Commission
  • A list of the current top-25 IP addresses used for e-mail spamming, as identified by Project Honey Pot
  • Slamming Spamming Resource on Spam
  • Why am I getting all this spam?
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