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Saturday, February 17, 2007

RH: An Idea to end Spam

From: Robert Ho (ho3@pacific.net.sg)
Subject: RH: An idea to end spam
View: Complete Thread (7 articles)

Original Format

Newsgroups: soc.culture.singapore
Date: 2004-03-16 04:02:22 PST

From: Robert Ho (ho3@pacific.net.sg)
Subject: RH: One possible way to discourage spam
This is the only article in this thread
View: Original Format
Newsgroups: soc.culture.singapore
Date: 2004-03-15 09:25:18 PST


1. All spam tries to sell you something.

2. So, if some, or even as few as say, 5% of recipients, receiving a
spam email, sends back a fake email asking for more information or to
give a fake order to buy, this could involve huge costs in the spammer processing the fake 'buy' email.

3. This could make it so unprofitable that spammers will simply give

4. For this idea to work, no 'normal' victim should be required to do this job of faking a 'buy' order. It has to be done by a small
company, which can be easily set up with very little cost, using, even students, etc, in low-cost countries like India [similar to
outsourcing a call centre].

5. Companies like Microsoft, etc, which are ready to put money into
tracing and prosecuting spammers, can instead, set up these low-cost
AntiSpam Centres, at very low and totally controllable cost. When it
starts working, money can be reduced, etc.

6. It would work like this:

a. Microsoft or other do-gooders set up these AntiSpam Centres in
low-cost countries like India and China.

b. Spam is collected by the usual spam filtering centres as is being
done now. But the spam are all forwarded to the AntiSpam Centres.

c. The AntiSpam Centres are staffed by workers who deliberately reply to the spam emails, either asking for more information or some request that need to be processed by a human, thereby raising the cost of replying to these fake 'buy' emails. Even fake 'buy' orders may be given but with missing or incomplete details such as missing
information or wrong credit card numbers, or wrong addresses [fake
addresses], etc. These could potentially be illegal so the AntiSpam
staff must know what is legal in their country and what is legal or
even ethical in emailing and keep to the limits.

d. The whole exercise is to force a human to process the reply.
Asking for more information seems legal enough. Other legal ways could be tried. This will force so much human processing of ultimately 'no-buy' emails that spammers will lose money and give up. Legally, the real buyers who respond to the spam emails probably do have a right to buy but the AntiSpam does not totally prevent that, only make it less profitable due to the high 'wastage' rate -- exactly like spam!

e. Since we are using humans to write these emails, each email would
be unique and cannot be blocked by a clever program. AntiSpam staff
will be told to vary their writings and not simply copy and paste.
That copy and paste could be done but change a few words here and
there. It is all easily done and very cheaply per email.

7. Even if a reply rate of only a few percent is achieved by the
AntiSpam Centres, this could make spamming unprofitable and they will
simply give up.

Robert Ho
15 Mar 04
UK 1725 Singapore 0125


1. The main drawback to the idea above is legality.

2. The spammer is probably a legitimate business who is only using a
legitimate method [email] EXCESSIVELY. This is probably not illegal
[unless govts rule it illegal]. Since spamming is thus probably legal, it would be illegal to try to stop or disrupt it. If this can be overcome, the idea should work.

3. There is also the question of definition. We all know what spam is when we receive one. But an unsolicited email in itself is probably not illegal so this means that we cannot define it as spam. I have avoided this problem by 'taking' only 'spam' collected by
spam-filtering companies. This is probably a workable workaround
because by taking only 'spam' that is forwarded by a proper
spam-filtering company, what they forward is indeed probably spam,
even if challenged in court. After all, their methods of filtering are designed to filter out spam and if emails fall into their filter,
these must be spam.

4. For spammers to make money out of the few percent of replies to
buy, and to therefore continue spamming, they must have a bona fide
company to process buy orders. I have identified this as their
Achilles heel. And my idea is to attack spammers by this heel. That
is, by flooding or [sweet irony] 'spamming' them back with fake
requests for more information or even fake buy orders. However, I may
be wrong. If spammers turn to merely advertising their wares, without
offering a way to order their products, then there would be no
Achilles heel to attack.

5. I know nothing of law but I would guess that asking for more
information is entirely legitimate but to fake a buy order would
probably be illegitimate. Some lawyer needs to look at this and advise what kind of fake requests can be legally made. Or even what kind of fake buy orders can be legally made. In the most extreme judicial interpretation, perhaps even a fake order for more information may be illegal since the intent and motive is to disrupt a business that may be bona fide even though its method of spamming may not be.

6. There is also the possibility that all this may be done by a
single server or couple of networked servers in much the same way as
spam uses a few servers or small network of servers to spam. A program can indeed be written to generate such false requests for more information, etc, to overwhelm the spammer. Initially, these anti-spam email replies will contribute to the overworking of the world's email systems but after the spammers give up, peace may return to earth.

7. Finally, although my idea may involve some possible illegalities,
all it takes is for a sympathetic govt anywhere in the world to
legislate to make my methods legal. Then, the Anti-Spam companies can
site their servers and operations in that country and thus be entirely legal. This is again, sweet irony because spammers also use such methods.

8. Thus, in conclusion, my idea is to use the very method of spamming to spam the spammers back. There seems to be a sweet irony and feeling of real justice in this.

Robert Ho
16 Mar 04
UK 1202 Singapore 2002