Articles

The futility of spam

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2008 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Guardian has written a recent article on the failure of Captcha (the distorted image of letters or a word that a user must type in to certify that they are a human and not a computer).  Apparently, humans in the developing world have found a way to crack Captcha, as well as developers.  Also Captcha is inaccessible to many of us, including people with poor eyesight.  However, this hasn’t stopped companies like Microsoft from remaining reliant on Captcha.  As for others, more spam means more security and less accessibility in other ways–perhaps longer waits for verification, more passwords to forget, that kind of thing.

I realise that spam is a patchwork quilt rather than a homogenous force, but can we not focus on blocking organisations that have a track record of spamming, from continuing to spam?  I am thinking of the 284 emails I deleted today.  Yes, these were safely caged in my Gmail spam folder, but they got that far and had to be deleted by hand.  If we need a human to check that a registrant for an email account is not a professional spammer, i.e. has not registered for hundreds of accounts over the years, then why not?

According to an article in IWR, a poll of 622 internet users found that 29% of them had bought goods from spam emails.  This is shockingly high, considering that spams is not tailored to the individual, nor is there any variety in what (at least) I receive.  I would have though it is actually quite a futile sport–worse than door-to-door sales, because there is no perceived ‘relationship’ with the seller.

I think we need to know more about why people patronise spammers, as any profit they make will fund more spam.  The Seattle Times reports that ‘cyberdetectives’ are still on the trail.

It is heartening to hear that spamming is now a criminal offense in the UK with a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison–but will anyone be caught doing it, despite our best efforts?

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