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REPORT: Why Am I Getting All This Spam?
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 20.03.03 - 12:03:00 CET under 01 - General News - Viewed 6068x
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The Center for Democracy & Technology published a report about Spam, how and why you might get it and the best ways to protect against spam mails.

Spam is the most annoying part of the Internet for me, specially if you access your E-Mails wireless via GPRS. Here you have to pay for every single character in the mail and that point makes spam even more annoying! :-(

Unsolicited Commercial E-mail Research Six Month Report
Center for Democracy & Technology March 2003

Every day, millions of people receive dozens of unsolicited commercial e-mails (UCE), known popularly as "spam." Some users see spam as a minor annoyance, while others are so overwhelmed with spam that they are forced to switch e-mail addresses. This has led many Internet users to wonder: How did these people get my e-mail address?

In the summer of 2002, CDT embarked on a project to attempt to determine the source of spam. To do so, we set up hundreds of different e-mail addresses, used them for a single purpose, and then waited six months to see what kind of mail those addresses were receiving. It should come as no surprise to most e-mail users that many of the addresses CDT created for this study attracted spam, but it is very interesting to see the different ays that e-mail addresses attracted spam - and the different volumes - depending on where the e-mail addresses were used.

The results offer Internet users insights about what online behavior results in the most spam. The results also debunk some of the myths about spam.

Major Findings

  • Our analysis indicated that e-mail addresses posted on Web sites or in newsgroups attract the most spam.
    • Web Sites - CDT received the most e-mails when an address was placed visibly on a public Web site. Spammers use software harvesting programs such as robots or spiders to record e-mail addresses listed on Web sites, including both personal Web pages and institutional (corporate or non-profit) Web pages.

      CDT tested two methods of obstructing address harvesting:

      • Replacing characters in an e-mail address with human-readable equivalents, e.g. "" was written "example at domain dot com;" and
      • Replacing characters in an e-mail address with HTML equivalents.

      E-mail addresses posted to Web sites using these conventions did not receive any spam.

    • USENET newsgroups -- Newsgroups can expose to spammers the e-mail address of every person who posts to the newsgroup. Newsgroup postings, on average, generated less spam than posting an e-mail address on a high-traffic web site. In our study, we discovered that most newsgroup-related spam is sent to the address in the message header, even if other e-mail addresses are included in the text of the posting.
  • For the most part, companies that offered users a choice about receiving commercial e-mails respected that choice. Most of the major Web sites to which we provided e-mail addresses respected the privacy choices we made -- when a choice was made available to us.
  • Some spam is generated through attacks on mail servers, methods that don't rely on the collection of e-mail addresses at all. In "brute force" attacks and "dictionary" attacks, spam programs send spam to every possible combination of letters at a domain, or to common names and words. While these attacks can be blocked, some spam is likely to get through. In many cases, spam generated by these attacks will be directed to shorter e-mail address (like before it is directed to longer addresses (like

Read the full report here.

It's more or less nothing new but it's a good read anyway and gives some inside views how this spammers gets your E-Mail addresses.

Cheers ~ Arne

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