More Spam, Please!

I’ve never been so delighted to receive spam e-mail. You see, I’m writing a spam filter, and the best way to write a spam filter is to go through all of the spam e-mail that you receive in order to set the “rules” or “conditions” by which e-mail is regarded as spam. So I logged on to my e-mail account, and found the place where the spam filter settings are set, and disabled the two spam filters that were enabled. Then, I logged on to my “blocked spam messages” account, to look at all of the previously caught spam messages. And … woah! There were over 8000 there! And (they say) they delete them every 7 days! I called up the ISP I am with, and asked them, “Are these messages really deleted every 7 days? There are over 8000 messages in my “blocked spam messages” account!” The man replied, “Yes, because there has been a worm roaming the internet recently which has been replicating a lot of spam.”

Yikes! Spam’s a real problem (so are internet worms). What a headache!

Here’s how the “old” spam worked. There would be a line in the message, for example, that said something like, “Great deal on widgets” and so you’d set up a rule, “Every time that the line, “Great deal on widgets” appears in a message, block that message. It’s not quite as simple anymore. Here’s what the vast majority of spammers are now doing in the source code of the messages they are sending:

Gre[this]at de[blocks]al on w[the]idge[filter]ts.

(Note: For the sake of this writeup, I have used square brackets. In reality, the spammers use angle brackets, but it cannot be done here or else the system I am using will regard everything between the brackets as hidden elements and wipe them out.)

What does that say (assuming angle brackets are used)? If it is sent as an HTML e-mail, it says, “Great deal on widgets” when read from an e-mail client because all of the text that appears in angle brackets appears as hidden elements! But to the filtering system, which reads the bare text only, it says something which doesn’t match the spam filter at all!

Well, here’s another technique I have seen employed in the use of spam e-mail. It is by far the “best” techique I have seen to date! It is called base64 encoding.

Emails can be sent with all sorts of encoding techniques, and, by default, when you send an image, or a word document, for example, the e-mail client will “encode” the document so it can be safely transmitted over the internet. A few selected, but very clever, spammers, have decided to encode their HTML documents using base64 encoding, which means that the message is completely unintelligle to either a human, or a spam filter, unless it is first decoded! By default, however, most ISPs don’t go through the task of decoding their e-mail before they apply the spam filter – that requires a lot of resources. Instead, they apply their “rules” on the undecoded document. The solution, in the end, will be to decode the document first! (Thus it is, that’s something I’m going to have to include in my new spam filter.)

Some people employ solutions in which only those who are registered on a list can have your e-mail delivered. This is not a spam filter, per se, it’s an e-mail address filter, or a “people” filter, but with the same (in fact better) effect. If you send an e-mail to the person, and you are not registered, then the system will send a message back to the “From” address in which it will ask you to please register with the system first. Since most spammers use artificial return e-mail addresses, this is actually quite a good solution and one which I highly recommend for people who have children and for children’s account. In fact, applying the spam filter, and then using this solution is the best way to go, in my opinion. This is also a feature which I am building in to my new spam filtering system. (I’ll be offering this soon to the public, but that’s another story!)

Spam is such a headache. It is the problem of the small percentage causing a headache for the larger percentage. But things like this also allow us to use our creativity in finding a solution to combat the problem.

In heaven, however, there will be no spam. No spammers. No malicious people. No abusers. No one who tries to seduce. You might say, “spam” should make us look “more forward” to heaven!

By the way, are you going to heaven? God’s solution is simple. We’ve sinned against a holy God. He loves us, but his laws are just, and since he’s just, like any righteous judge would, he must punish sin. God knew that we couldn’t solve our sin problem by ourselves, so he sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross in order to take the punishment that we deserved to take. Only Jesus could do that. Only he was perfect. No one else could do it because no one else was perfect. So only Jesus qualified. He took the punishment which we deserved to take, and by trusting in him, and believing him for who he said he was (God), he says that we can have eternal life – something we don’t deserve but which he offers to us as a free gift … if we will truly trust him and seek to obey him.

Spam is bad news. Sin is bad news, too. God knew that, and has provided a solution to our sin problem. In the meantime, I will continue to work on my spam filter … and hopefully iron out all the wrinkles. In the meantime, “More spam, please!” I need that spam in order to be able to set the filtering rules that will be applied to all future incoming messages! So spammers, beware! Send as much as you can, I’m ready for you! In not many days from now, when that filter is all done, we’re going to “zap” those messages one by one … but as for you, have you made your peace with God yet?