New 'field guide' collects spammers' tricks

"Mini marquee?" "Lost in Space?" "Hypertextus Interruptus?" Which is your favorite spam technique?

If those names don't ring a bell, perhaps you should refer to the new "Field Guide to Spam," published by enterprise e-mail company ActiveState Corp. (See http://www.activestate.com/Products/PureMessage/Field_Guide_to_Spam/?_x=1) The company calls the new online guide a "living compilation" of the tricks spammers use to slip their unsolicited e-mail messages by antispam filters.

The new guide was conceived by ActiveState Antispam Research Director John Graham-Cumming to quantify spam techniques.

The Field Guide provides a comprehensive listing and explanation of spam techniques that administrators can use to keep abreast of the ever-changing tricks used by spammers, according to ActiveState.

More than 20 different spam techniques are documented. Each is named and rated for popularity and complexity. ActiveState researchers categorized the techniques as either "common" or "rare," and assigned complexity ratings that range from "dumb" to "dastardly."

In a few minutes, readers can brush up on run-of-the-mill ruses like "Lost in Space," in which the spammer inserts spaces between the letters of common spam "trigger" words such as mortgage and Viagra.

Or readers can revel in the subtlety of dastardly techniques like "Slice and Dice," in which a spreadsheet-like HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) table breaks up the content of the spam message, with each cell in the table containing a single letter of the message.

A section on advanced tricks explains how spammers combine multiple techniques in a single message, while also using more technical means for avoiding detection, such as message encoding.

Techniques listed in the Field Guide are used to create heuristic tests that ActiveState's PureMessage e-mail filtering product relies on to spot spam messages, but don't account for all the various types of spam messages, said Jesse Dougherty, director of development at ActiveState.

"These are the techniques used by rogue spammers to hide the content they're sending, usually because it's offensive," he said.

Vancouver-based ActiveState will update the Field Guide whenever new techniques appear and hopes that the catalog helps organizations develop policies to weed out the bothersome messages, Dougherty said.

"Part of industry's challenge is defining spam," Dougherty said. "One test is asking 'Are they trying to trick me?' If an organization cannot verify that a message is not offensive, they can reject it," Dougherty said.

He expects the Field Guide to grow, perhaps to as many as a couple hundred different spam techniques, and hopes that other companies will learn from the guide and contribute to it.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Roberts

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?