May 1 in Helsinki

Best Spam

received by Vadim Makarov

Current state of my personal email account (as of August 2006):
Spam is kept under some sort of control by continuous investment of time both by me and my provider. Since late 2005, my hosting provider offers greylisting (which I have turned on). Since 2003, I have to employ Spamassassin + Bayesian classifier, with hand-tuned scores, connection to many RBLs, and list of spam/ham folders for the Bayesian to learn on. Also I have a "gray zone" folder which I check from time to time for false positives. Keeping the filtering measures updated has taken me several working days each year; also in 2005 it has taken my provider ( a considerable investment to set up the additional infrastructure needed to handle the spam deluge. While my setup appears to work sufficiently well at times, it in fact does not. During the years 2003—2006, I have been missing at least three important emails every year: things like communication from a publisher, reply from a prospective employer, renewal notice from a domain name registrar.

If someone comes up with a postage-based email system that appears to have any chance for wide acceptance, I would be among the first to adopt and install it on my account. No it does not need to cost anything to send me email. I guarantee to waive postage for all legitimate incoming emails as soon as I read them (but not for spam).

K a r i n   S k o g
Do you think spam is only ugly? Look at what I got.

Necessary digression: Never buy anything from companies that send you spam. Best of all, don't waste your time even looking at it, trying to unsubscribe (it will only bring you more spam) or pursue the spammer - delete the message right away. Those crooks thoroughly understand the harm they do to the rest of the world by wasting huge amounts of people's time and money, and still continue their nasty business (crime, in fact) taking every possible step to fool YOU; more on this at the bottom of the page. If you are new to computers and Internet (everyone is at some point), please learn this and never again let yourself be suckered.

Cover of The Little Prince (modified); image composed in February 2002
Finally I did something good to the titles in my Spam folder. This is how I feel about spam.
Here is the original drawing and relevant chapter by Antoine de Saint Exupery.
See also: Hawking on spam :)



Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 20:15:56 EST
Dear Internet User:

  To start let me say this, I'm tired of the porn email in my email box and all that click here crap. I'm a published author in the United States, Germany and Japan. I've spend seven hours or more a day for the last two months researching the topic of Spam on the Internet. I've learned a lot about SMTP blocking, reporting Spam, and blocking your email account from being spammed. In this time I have practiced everything I have learned in blocking this crap mail they call professional advertising and in the last few weeks I have not yet received one piece of Spam. I wrote a full report on this process I have developed and did some research on how to get this information around to the right people. I've contacted many spammers and did some price research, what better way to find the Spam haters then to find the spammer that is spamming them. I've talked to many well known bulkers as they like to be called and we made the agreement that I will get to advertise to there list in return for a profit break. I'm forced to sell my report for the reason to pay the advertising fee and keep me alive but on the bright side you will learn to fight against the horrible porn mail in your email box. Please join me in fighting this horrible advertising method that has been on the Internet for years. Remember, "Together we stand, divided we fall."

To order my detailed report and provide your help in fighting spam send $15 to the address below and lets all, together, put a stop to spam once and for all.

K.C. Smith
10 East Louisiana
Evansville, IN 47711

Thank you for your support in this matter.

Your friend and best man in fight against spam.

Subject: Fw: Virii

Date: 4 Oct 2001
From: yLd <>
To: <;>
You have just received a Taliban virus. Since we are not so technologicaly advanced in Afghanistan, this is a MANUAL virus. Please delete all the files on your hard disk yourself and send this mail to everyone you know.
Thank you very much for helping us.

-Taliban hacker.

Subject: The Invisible Killer!

From: DHMO
Sent: 9. juni 1999 02:29
The Invisible Killer

Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.

Dihydrogen monoxide:

Contamination Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions!

Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the US.

Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:

Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!

The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation." In fact, the navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.

The Horror Must Be Stopped!

Act NOW to prevent further contamination. Find out more about this dangerous chemical. What you don't know can hurt you and others throughout the world.

Please Send $3.00, or whatever amount you wish to:

PMB 144
605-B Hwy. 62-65 N.
Harrison, AR 72601-2208

Please include your email address for fastest response!

Under Bill S.1618 TITLE III passed by the 105th U.S. Congress this letter can not be considered spam as long as we offer you a no-cost way to remove your name and email from our listserver address book.

To be removed from this listserver address book, please email and we'll promptly honor your remove request.

VM's note: there is a site devoted to dihydrogen monoxide research, which even claims the email above was forged. Dihydrogen monoxide, H2O, is also known as water.

Subject: Your profits are DarkProfits

Date: 13 Sep 2003
Welcome to the site, it's us again, now we extended our offerings, here is a list:

1. Heroin, in liquid and crystal form.
2. Rocket fuel and Tomohawk rockets (serious enquiries only).
3. Other rockets (Air-to-Air), orders in batches of 10.
4. New shipment of cocaine has arrived, buy 9 grams and get 10th for free.
5. We also offer gay-slaves for sale, we offer only such service on the NET, you can choose the one you like, then get straight to business.
6. Fake currencies, such as Euros and US dollars, prices would match competition.
7. Also, as always, we offer widest range of child pornography and exclusive lolita galleries, to keep out clients busy.

Everyone is welcome, be it in States or any other place worldwide.

ATTENTION. Clearance offer. Buy 30 grams of heroin, get 5 free.
Prepay your batch of rockets (air-to-air) and recieve a portable rocket-lacuncher for free.

This offer won't last! Only until 20th of August all our clients will also recieve a pack of 2 CDs, with best selection of child pornography.

VM's note: here is probably some spammer trying to make troubles for a legitimate site, which he's got angry with for some reason.

Not so fun: denial of service attack

On a Saturday in March 2000, everyone coming to the department was greeted by colorful notices posted on all doors by our system administrator. They read that the email system is temporarily shut down because of a hacker attack.

We subsequently learned that someone sent out a spam message that appeared to be coming from a non-existent user at our domain name ( Our server was overloaded by the surge of unsubscription requests (some 16,000 in the next five hours) and had to be shut down. Later, one angry recipient of the spam message emailed everybody at the department, mistakenly shaming us for sending it.

Absolutely not fun: Russian spam

I am severely depressed by the contents of Russian spam coming to my mailbox. About half of the messages advertize open, legitimate businesses and educational courses. The latter are often backed by people with academic background and supposedly well known names. I got tired of calling teachers with doctoral degreees and explaining them that spam is bad (I'm writing this in the end of 2002). I'm equally tired of deleting marketing messages that would normally be found only at the purchase department of some industry or a store chain.

Can you imagine a Western research institution or large manufacturer sending spam? There have been Russian ones that did exactly that. Here is one of the best examples (translated from Russian):

Machine factory for sale. Low price.

12 hectare property, 150,000 square feet production floor, 500 machine tools installed.
Large stock of tools and parts. Railway branch line with a bridge crane.
Cheap workforce and good communications available at the location (Western Russia).

(few contact phones in Moscow included)  Febraury 6, 2003
This indicates that theft is still the business norm in my country, and also leaves the impression that the use of Internet in Russia lags the rest of the world by several years. That's it.

Depressingly, this king of spam included requests for donations by some Otrhodox parishes, and offers of church-related services, e.g. does your church want order a bell like this (real image taken from spam, December 2004) from our foundry?

Yet there is some progress (we're not that retarded after all!). In 2004, there appeared 'Nigerian' scam à la russe:

Dear Sir,

I , representing mr. mikhail khodorkovsky (m.k.) would
like to ask
for your
partnership is re-profiling funds over US$18 million.
I will give
the details, but
in summary, the funds are coming via bank menatep,
gibraltar and this
is a legitimate
transaction. You will be paid 4% for your "management

If you are interested, please write back and I will
provide further
Keep this confidential. Finally, please note that this
must be
concluded as quickly
as possbile.

Write me back through my alternate email address on

I look forward to it.

Mr Oleg Maslev  October 5, 2004
(The Khodorkovsky story apparently worked. I had received improved and expanded versions of it in the following months.)

I received the first “email lottery winner” scam in Russian in March 2005. Unfortunately, I'm yet to read a penis enlargement offer in Russian. This means we are not as advanced yet as the United States population has been years ago. Dammit! :) P.S. April 2006: Yes, we are. Herbal penis enlargement pills, free shipping to any destination in the Russian Federation. At last!

As of summer 2005, spam has become yet another channel for advertising here in Russia. There is no law that limits it.

Another real spam, July 2005: advertising a university in Moscow (one of the less known ones, obviously to boost admission). Dammit.

Some more enlightening Russian spam (hey, do you have that in the U.S.?):

Subject: яйцеклетки и сперматозоиды известных людей для искусственного зачатия

Date: 19 Aug 2005
Многие мечтали забеременеть от Элвиса Пресли или получить отпрыска от Мадонны, а теперь это стало реальностью.
Мы продаем яйцеклетки и сперматозоиды из нашего фонда "избранных" для искусственного зачатия в пробирке:

звезды поп и рок-музыки (отечественная эстрада) - 20 000 USD
звезды поп и рок-музыки (зарубежная эстрада) - 27 000 USD
ведущие политики - 30 000 USD
бизнесмены и олигархи - 50 000 USD
ученые - 12 000 USD
аристократия (графы, короли, принцы) - 37 000 USD

Перед искусственным оплодотворением Вы встретитесь с "отцом" (или "матерью"), который подтвердит Вам лично, что является донором данных сперматозоидов или яйцеклеток.

Цены указаны за 1000 жизнеспособных яйцеклеток или сперматозоидов. Прайс-лист для оптовиков на <URL>

Спешите заказать!
- - -
С уважением,
ООО "Кукушка"

VM's note: this is probably not real. They use this ad to lead readers to a website that lists general medical services in St. Petersburg.

Funny tricks to get around filters

Date: 30 Jan 2005

 _     _   _   _____   _____   _____   _   __   _
| |   / / | | /  ___| /  _  \ |  _  \ | | |  \ | |
| |  / /  | | | |     | | | | | | | | | | |   \| |
| | / /   | | | |     | | | | | | | | | | | |\   |
| |/ /    | | | |___  | |_| | | |_| | | | | | \  |
|___/     |_| \_____| \_____/ |_____/ |_| |_|  \_|

just one click away

Next weapon in the war: as people start running OCR on images, spammers have started to obscure text in images to thwart OCR, effectively turning the image into a CAPTCHA (in this example, little colored streaks added to the image would result in random errors in character recognition, enough to avoid exact matching of text pattern in spam detection):

Date: 23 Nov 2006
An image with text promoting a website freely selling prescription medicine, text obscured with colored streaks

Date: 19 Dec 2006

p4wt       xobr   gbhri2w0        yrcaz            1qmxlrq     9qh1u8dna            75uob     
 zyao     6ml6    uto0fods        o4dcf           0wrxkum795   iylwd4i5n0           xurby      
 axxf     67xj    bhmu485j       hz8iylc        jwjq3hli61j5   yuzugf8wiau         w7zba9l     
 mznd3   zhoax      vpe6         k5jbfli        wmitd     3j   tmyg   6704         gxtvy7y     
  zcum   zi8b       qvw7         9s4js73       spf95           ytor   bor4         sbxvsf2     
  guae   w4qc       9bma        2zut c1w8      v0hb            5xst   p4c3        r7ce hysb    
  qxp5u zpv1s       murs        5v5h jrce      abvq   q4firj   ifzt1h8q1m         37hu s39w    
   90x8 p5wo        f4cp       hxhr4 zpn6i     3ax4   vuxayb   faq2on9jt         wu0nn zw22e   
   xjtm pdrr        ei8s       24qv   emi0     ert8   s3midj   95g8q6tfy         2uhh   w9hn   
    jznj0zj         g26s       d62ix3mvuu1     69ejp    lj5y   pxbc ms4mf        qhjcb5b9du3   
    9llr9d9         71be      a8dan5x074dgk     akl08   puj3   na14 iplv1       tygh549qirsny  
    t2rswbz       rocc9j2m    dc4lmxixr37zi     1msptt2inc98   9a7q  u49w4      yq4gnhg8y681c  
     l9qec        rw7k2fvn    lkz5     u60w      xy1kmhxoklp   10z0   gwp0t     0k6z     d4ib  
     kfa7z        amew8ws3   10uw       tchy       c7czzon     x38r    zzhq2   m08p       29ti


WC at Finnish customs Now becoming serious, if you are determined to do something against spam (or at least read about some of the efforts), here are few links:

They will tell you that my approach "delete and forget" might be a wrong one. I hope, however, that spamming will eventually be forbidden by laws (now it really isn't). As the sites above explain, besides being unetical, spamming makes the whole economy inefficient by allowing greatly lossmaking spammer's businesses to exist by forcing their entire huge marketing costs onto people, companies and organizations, most of which (>90%) of course have no wish to pay someone else's business expenses. To me, it is theft.

That said, I sometimes get innocent spam from Internet newbies who apparently do not realize this is bad. They don't hide behind forged headers and advertise easily accessible real businesses and organizations. Then I send a reply explaining why they should never do that again. Hopefully it works. There will always be people new to computers and Internet, so this is OK.

Vadim Makarov
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