Who Hacked NSP’s Mailing Lists?
THE BELOW IS AN ARTICLE IN THE STRAITS TIMES REPRODUCED IN FULL. MY COMMENTS AND NOTES ARE IN UPPER-CASE.
Notes from the New Economy:
"Spare me the spam. Let me opt in instead"
By Zuraidah Ibrahim. In San Francisco
I spent 10 days away without checking my e-mail recently and, when I did, I wanted to weep.
There were 343 new messages, and a thick chunk was odious (THE ATTACK IS SET UP WITH THIS WORD) junk mail with headers like 'Lose excess weight fast!!' and '$$$Make a million before you're 30!!!$$$'.
I began erasing them with my 'delete' button, but then a couple of messages caught my eye. They were from the National Solidarity Party (NSP) in Singapore.
(SHE COMES QUICKLY TO THE REAL TARGET OF HER ARTICLE, AFTER THE SHORT INTRODUCTION)
'Hello, I've added you to my NSP PR group,' one began cheerfully. The second message explained that this was a network set up for 'you, the Singaporean who is concerned about your rights as a citizen, and wants to be kept informed of Singapore's political developments and wants direct firsthand information and comments from the NSP'.
I would have subscribed willingly to the mailing list if someone had asked me to do so. But this was not an 'opt-in' invitation. Instead, the sender had decided for me that I should receive its mailings. (BLAME AND CRITICISM OF THE NSP BEGINS.)
Internet users call this sort of behaviour 'spamming' - sending out unsolicited bulk e-mail - and consider it a violation of basic netiquette.
(SURELY NSP SENDS OUT LESS THAN A FEW HUNDRED UNSOLICITED EMAILS A MONTH? AFTER ALL, ITS TOTAL EMAIL LIST IS ONLY A FEW THOUSAND. THUS, SHE EQUATES THIS FEW HUNDRED UNSOLICITED EMAILS WITH COMMERCIAL SPAMMING, WHICH IS SENT OUT IN BULK TO THOUSANDS AT A TIME AND EVERY FREQUENTLY. SHE SETS THE STAGE FOR DEMONISING NSP'S SMALL MAILING EFFORT)
Annoyed, I tried to un-subscribe from the mailing list without any success. Since the list was based on the popular Yahoo service, I turned to email@example.com to get me off NSP's list, and it did so promptly. Another irritated friend e-mailed me to say she had done the same.
(TWO INSTEAD OF ONE - WOW! 100% INCREASE)
A couple of days later, the party said hackers had destroyed its mailing list of over 8,000 addresses. Its supporters might suspect sinister forces at work, but I would not be surprised if the hacker was an angry anti-spammer.
(BLAME IS CLEVERLY PUT ON A HACKER ATTACK ON NSP -- EXONERATING THE PAP FROM POSSIBLE BLAME. BY IMPLYING THAT THE NSP IS TO BLAME FOR EMAILING PEOPLE, SHE DOWNPLAYS THE FACT THAT HACKING IS A CRIMINAL ACT AND HACKERS HAVE BEEN CONVICTED AND JAILED. IT IS A SERIOUS CRIMINAL OFFENCE IN SINGAPORE. ALSO, BY SUGGESTING THAT THE HACKER IS AN ANGRY ANTI-SPAMMER, SHE IMPLIES THAT THE CRIMINAL OFFENCE IS THE WORK OF ONE INDIVIDUAL. IT IS LIKE SAYING THAT A PERSON WHO DOESN'T LIKE JUNK MAIL IN HIS LETTER BOX WOULD BE SO INCENSED TO FIND ONE, ONE DAY THAT HE WOULD GO TO ALL THE TROUBLE TO DEVISE A BOMB OVER SEVERAL DAYS OR WEEKS (WHICH IS WHAT THE HACKER WOULD HAVE NEEDED FOR THE NSP ATTACK) AND BOMBED THE ORGANISATION THAT SENT HIM THE PIECE OF JUNK MAIL ...)
As the General Election draws near and participants and observers alike turn to the Internet as a quick and convenient political pulpit, the NSP's mailing-list experiment should serve as a useful reminder on proper behaviour in cyberspace.
(SOUNDS LIKE AN ECHO OF THE SAME FEAR THAT THE PAP HAS ABOUT THE EFFECTIVE USE OF CYBERSPACE BY OPPOSITION PARTIES).
It is understandable why organisations like NSP would want to exploit the power of mailing lists. E-mail is the No 1 reason people log on to the Internet, and material that enters one's mailbox is more likely to be read than something on a website. But e-mail is also more intrusive, and must be used sensitively.
(CONTINUES ECHOING THE PAP FEAR OF CYBERSPACE. ISN'T ALL ADVERTISING INTRUSIVE? FROM THE TV COMMERCIAL THAT BREAKS INTO YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS WITH LOUD MUSIC, SOUND EFFECTS AND ON-SCREEN IMAGERY TO THE TV ON BUSES THAT WE HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO LISTEN TO, IF NOT WATCH? TO THE ODIOUS RADIO COMMERCIALS THAT BREAK INTO OUR CONSCIOUSNESS WHEN ALL WE WANT IS A LITTLE RELAXING MUSIC? TO POSTERS AT STREET VORNERS AND MOVING ADS ON BUSES AND TAXIS THAT YOU CANNOT HELP SEEING? OH, COME ON, ZURAIDAH!)
A rule of thumb is to get people to opt in, usually when they visit
websites and purchase products or services.
(THAT WOULD LIMIT THE REACH OF THE OPPOSITION, EXACTLY WHAT THE PAP WANTS).
Potential recipients' express permission should be sought, and a
confirmation message sent to double-check that they consented to being put on the list and did not have their addresses forwarded to the sender by others.
(YES, MAKE IT DIFFICULT SO THAT THE OPPOSITION'S REACH IS LIMITED TO A FEW DOZENS OR HUNDREDS).
Another good practice is to explain to recipients how their e-mail addresses were obtained. Otherwise, they are likely to feel that their privacy has been violated.
(LIKE THE PAP CARES ABOUT PRIVACY! REMEMBER HOW SINGTEL AND THE MINISTRY OF HOME AFFAIRS HACKED INTO OUR COMPUTERS?)
Finally, with each mailing, include a convenient, one-step method for subscribers to opt out of the list. Honour all such requests promptly and courteously, and confirm them by e-mail.
(YES, THAT WOULD BE GOOD IF WE ARE SUBJECTED TO COMMERCIAL BULK MAILERS BUT A TINY OUTFIT LIKE NSP IS NOT THAT KIND OF COMMERCIAL BULK MAILER)
Most reputable organisations abide by these rules now. Sending
unsolicited mass e-mail may seem like a cost-free solution to the
(KEEPS INDIRECTLY SUGGESTING THAT THE NSP IS NOT A REPUTABLE ORGANISATION)
The costs to the recipients and the Internet Service Provider (ISP), however, are real. Spam clogs up the Internet's 'arteries' and mailboxes, raises the annoyance quotient of recipients, increases the download time and stretches the manpower of ISPs, which have to allocate more staff members just to deal with it. It is a theft of other people's time and resources.
(NSP IS BY NO STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION A COMMERCIAL BULK MAILER, IS IT?)
According to anti-spam site Spamcop, AmericaOnline (AOL) was at one point being deluged with 1.8 million spams from Cyber Promotions daily until it had a court injunction to stop it.
(IS SHE SUGGESTING THAT NSP HAS THE TIME, MONEY AND RESOURCES TO MOUNT SUCH A MASSIVE OPERATION?)
If you assume a typical AOL user takes 10 seconds (PLEASE DO NOT EXAGGERATE. IT TAKES ONLY ONE SECOND TO SPOT A JUNK EMAIL AND ANOTHER HALF A SECOND TO HIT THE DELETE BUTTON) to identify and discard a message, that still adds up to 5,000 hours per day of connected time spent discarding spam. No other type of advertising costs the advertiser so little, and the audience, so much.
(AGAIN, NSP IS NOT A COMMERCIAL BULK MAILER)
At Spamcon, a recent conference on spam held in San Francisco, the subject was not all anti-spam, and indeed there were responsible marketeers who spoke on the how-tos of reasonable, rational and successful mass e-mailing.
Mr Ted Gavin, a conference speaker, has written a useful document on the subject available online.
Although it deals specifically with commercial e-mail, some general guidelines should still apply to political mailing lists.
He also cites studies that show opt-in mailing lists are more
effective in starting and maintaining customer relationships than any other type of Internet advertising.
He says that opt-in mailing is 18 per cent more effective than banner advertising, which has a response rate of only 0.65 per cent.
'It is so successful because the recipients of those e-mailed
advertisements made a specific effort to receive them, thus
indicating their interest in receiving information about products
which they felt were of interest to themselves.'
NSP is likely to argue that its messages do not constitute spam. They are informational. Participants do have a chance to opt out even if they were not asked to opt in. (RIGHT!)
It might seem like a time-saving move, but why incur your recipients' wrath unnecessarily? The true cost is the sender's own standing in the Internet community. (AGAIN, IMPLYING NSP IS DISREPUTABLE)
CONCLUSION: THIS KIND OF ARTICLE IS VERY COMMON IN THE UNITED STATES WHERE SPAM IS GREATLY USED. IN SINGAPORE, SPAM IS NOT A PROBLEM BECAUSE IT IS VERY LOW SCALE. NSP SHOULD CONTINUE TO USE ANY MEANS TO REACH A WIDER AUDIENCE, INCLUDING SPAMMING IF NECESSARY.
AS FOR ZURAIDAH IBRAHIM, SHE MERELY COPIED THIS ARTICLE, NOT WORD FOR WORD, BUT ITS GENERAL THEME, LIKE SO MANY OF OUR MEDIA PRACTITIONERS, BUT THEN, SHE ADDED THE "LOCAL INTEREST" BY PERFORMING A HATCHET JOB ON THE NSP AND TRYING TO DIVERT BLAME FOR THE CRIMINAL HACKING ATTACK TO EXONERATE THE PAP).