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Spam Can Be Fun 9 May 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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It's a rather quiet news day today with perhaps the biggest event being Cisco's rather unexpected profit report and the huge boost it's given tech-stocks in the USA and Europe.

However, one thing remains constant, and that's the endless stream of spam that trickles into my mailbox.

There's little point in reiterating the fact that I, like so many other Net users, hate spam -- so, in light of the up-beat mood that the Cisco news has created in the tech sector, I'm going to offer some suggestions as to how you can have fun with spam and those who send it.

I know this may sound like a difficult challenge but if you apply yourself to the task you can get a modicum of enjoyment from the dross in your mailbox.

Whatever Happened To?
About a year or so ago I started developing a new type of pulsejet engine which takes aim fair and square at the defense and recreation markets.

To find out how things are going, check out the X-Jet page on this site.

Of course it's much easier to have fun with regular junk snail-mail that arrives in the form of ink on paper. You can use it to start your fire in the winter, make lovely and decorative head-wear, control the weeds in your garden, etc.

Secondary uses aside, one of the more redeeming aspects of junk snail mail is that it often contains some great and quite legitimate offers. I don't think I've ever received a real letter or leaflet from someone trying to convince me that my male-member ought to be enlarged or that I should buy a "Davy-Degree" from a fake university.

I actually spend some time browsing the regularly delivered brochure from The Warehouse because it often has stuff that I actually end up buying.

Unfortunately spam is nothing more than a series of bits and bytes so it becomes hard to find a really practical use for it.

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    This only leaves you with the option of trying to taunt those who send it.

    You can, of course, follow the conventional approach and simply report the spam to the sender's ISP or upstream provider. If it's been sent through an open mailserver you can also report that to one of the black-lists..

    However there's not a lot of satisfaction in this. There are now so many spammers, spam-friendly providers, and poorly configured mailservers that you could spend all day doing this and still not keep up.

    Instead of trying to get them temporarily disconnected (only to reappear the next day), why not get even?

    Here's what I do:

    First, don't delete the spam you receive -- it might contain some very handy information. It can be both a target and a bullet.

    If the spam includes a website address, turn off your browser's support for Javascript and Java (for security purposes) then go there -- but don't click on the link in the email -- type in the URL without any obvious identifying information that may have been included to verify your address.

    Have a look around on the site for an email address -- or a mailing list/newsletter option. Email addresses are targets, opt-in mailing lists are bullets.

    Please don't make the mistake of assuming that the "from" or "reply-to" address on the spam is actually that of the spammer -- it is almost invariably forged -- so disregard it. Always go to the website being promoted in the spam (if there is one) and get your "targets" from there.

    If you do this with all the spams you receive, you'll eventually build up a nice little list of targets and bullets. Then it becomes time to join the dots.

    Take all the email addresses you've uncovered and sign them up to all the spammer's mailing lists.

    Fight spam with spam!

    Now, every time you get a new spam, be sure and find the target or bullet associated with it -- and add it to your lists.

    My lists now contain over 100 entries -- so each new spammer who sends me email will suddenly find themselves subscribed to the mailing lists of 100 other spammers.

    Okay, so it's petty and childish -- but I no longer fear the arrival of spam -- I welcome it. Now that my lists are getting longer I plan to write some software to help automate the process whereby spammers are introduced to their peers.

    This is the Internet equivalent of stuffing a snail-mail spammer's freepost envelope with the junkmail you've received from others and then dropping it in the post -- but with the added bonus that once they're on those mailing lists they'll find it near-impossible to get off. It's the gift that just keeps on giving ;-)

    Do you have any creative uses or payback methods to make spam fun? If so, please share them with Aardvark's readers.

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    Security Alerts
    Security flaw in Microsoft Office for Mac (CNet - 18/04/2002)

    A trio of MS-Office security vulns (TheReg - 10/04/2002)

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