The thin red jellies within you or within me, the bones and the marrow in the bones,
The exquisite realization of health;
Oh I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
Oh I say now these are the soul!--- Walt Whitman,
Leaves of Grass
The law-and-order types have it all wrong. They want to legislate against internet spam. There is a far easier way to get rid of it. Put it in our hands. Make it possible for us to close in on those people who are sending out this garbage.
If we had their names, addresses, and home telephone numbers we could take our complaints directly to the source so that they would begin to think twice before sending out 4,000,000 pieces of gunk, inundating us with messages for Russian ladies, doubtful mortgages, drugs, fortunes to be made in Central Africa, and penis enlargers.
Jeremy Lansman, manager of KYES-TV in Anchorage here offers a few thoughts on how to track them down.
The formal phrase is "Undesired Commercial Email (UCE)." I remember thinking after getting my first spam sometime back in 1996 that the internet was being despoiled.
I hate it, as much as I hate junk mail. I used to carefully poke all those American Express billing stuffers in with my payment, forcing some poor clerk to sift through all that junk to find my check. Sometimes I would engage telemarketers for good chunks of an hour with witty conversation as a penalty for disturbing my restful evening.
Junk e-mail is eroding the value of the internet. As undesirable, unwanted junk fills the in-box, it becomes harder to find desired messages from friends. Although filters can help, none is perfect.
So, early on, I went to war with spammers. I used to think that if only everyone would do this, spammers would wither and die. I'll say more about that later. To begin, here are a few tips.
All UCE must lead to a seller via a phone number, postal address, fax number, or link to a Universal Reference Locator (URL) --- also known as a browser link. One common spam is the one, I am sure you have seen it, selling reports. It is a type of pyramid chain letter. It has some names and addresses in the message. This is easy. Most of these people are smart enough to use a P.O. Box, but not all. I look the names up in on line phone book directories usinghttp://www.switchboard.comI tracked one of these guys down once. The spam had used a secret code planted in our server by other spammers in an attempt to use our server to relay these mailings. The telephone number in Florida was answered by a woman who said, "I have to call George... that is not me.... hold on."
George came to the phone. I had called a trailer park in Florida, and George, who was retired, was about 65, and --- I could almost see him --- was overweight. He had nothing left in life except the little dibs and dabs of money he made sending out junk.
I told him that his use of the secret code meant that he or his company had illegally broken into my computer, but he vigorously defended his new life's work. "I ain't doing nothing illegal, and a lot of people like receiving my mail."
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URL to Site Owner
Where the money trail is a URL, you can look up the owner of the site. For example, look up my site,
www.kyes.comIf you go tohttp://www.samspade.com
a form opens with an entry called "Do Stuff." Put in my URL and you will get my address and phone number. Sam Spade is one of those volunteer spam fighter sites which used to be very good until traffic got so heavy that information providers started cutting Sam off. You can still obtain a fair amount of information if the spammer has not hidden it. If the URL looks suspicious I might look at the raw web site. For example, if the URL is
http://www.tools.com/xxx/pornopage.htmlI might put in
just to find out something about the site. Then I'll look 'em up with Sam Spade.
I called one site owner, a school book seller. It didn't seem they would be selling pictures of naked people. The woman who answered the phone sounded just like a school teacher. She was astounded that their site had been hijacked, by.... uh... well, you know.
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Finding the hidden URLMore often than not the link goes to Bejing, or there is no valid address or phone number, or more frequently the URL is hidden. Find a URL link by clicking on View Source. This is the code that you see. Somewhere in there is the link.
[To be concluded in our next issue.]