When most of us think of spammers, we conjure up images of a fat guy wearing loud clothes and too many rings, braying away in a voice that...
When most of us think of spammers, we conjure up images of a fat guy wearing loud clothes and too many rings, braying away in a voice that annoys the people at the next table in the same way his stock in trade does for his victims.
Or maybe some skinny, pimply kid in pajama bottoms, sending out a million messages from his basement; whooping with joy upon receiving the handful of responses that will keep him in business.
In any case, picture the most reprehensible person imaginable, a miserable soul bent on spreading the gloom as he invades your inbox.
Stereotypes, however, don’t always ring true. And at least one spam fighter feels the way to fight spammers is to address them as human beings, and just say no-thank-you.
Blue Security (www.bluesecurity.com) is assembling a do-not-intrude registry, similar in spirit to the do-not-call list that has gained moderate success in the battle against intrusive telephone solicitors.
It requires signing up for the service — which is at present free to consumers — and installing a mail client on your PC. You become part of this now 70,000 strong list that is made available to spammers who will presumably not send you any messages if you are on the list.
The first impression highlights an obvious drawback: Providing a spammer with a list of active e-mail addresses evokes a fox and a henhouse. But Blue Security Chief Executive Eran Reshef said the list is encrypted, preventing its viewing, dissemination or, most important, merging into a database. Instead, a spammer merges the do-not-intrude names into his own list, then erasing those appearing in both places.
“This isn’t a magic bullet,” he said. “Rather, it is a way to change spam activity in the long term.”
The key to success here is recognizing spammers as businessmen driven by the profit motive, rather than the absolute scum of the earth.
Reshef, again: “These people are out to make money. They will respond to requests from people who are not interested in hearing from them. They don’t want to go where they are not wanted.”
Reshef’s real-world example portrays a merchant who sets up shop in a new location and then blankets the neighborhood with leaflets. The people who take the time to throw out each flier are the same who use e-mail filters. But Reshef’s customers band together, go to the merchant and ask him to stop.
I haven’t met enough spammers to determine whether this will work, so I should rein in the skepticism.
Reshef has met some of these people. He said about 20 such characters are responsible for all of the world’s spam. Some of them are already complying with the Blue Security scheme.
There are a few reasons why I won’t join in here. Much of the spam I get is from obvious scam artists and faux Nigerians who don’t have a Web site, which is necessary for this to work. And for the time being, Mac users are left out. Finding someone to port the program to the Rest of Us is toward the middle of Reshef’s to-do list.
In the meantime, I seek the answer to a more important question: Am I a sexist if I imagine that all spammers are men?