Spam, blacklists, and long memories.

2004-01-18 23:38

We have about 5000 lines in our spam filters.

We are, realistically speaking, very unlikely to ever check most of these entries again. We’re unusual; we do check them. When someone writes us and says “hey, why is this blocked”, we look at it.

Which has happened twice, in about 7 years.

So… The other 5000 lines will probably just be there forever. The people who spammed us in 1998 are still in our filtering list in 2004. Some of them, in theory, may have reformed — although in practice that’s never a good bet.

As someone once commented, long after Mars is colonized, the old Cyber Promotions network block will probably still have poor internet connectivity.

This has a big implication for people thinking about spam. The benefits (if you get any) will be over in a week or two. The costs will be with you forever. When Barnes & Noble spammed, I stopped going there for a few years. Companies that spam more consistently, I just never deal with. And I do mean “never”. I have never bought anything from Microwarehouse. I have no idea whether their spam is still coming out; we blocked it years ago, and have never had any reason to rethink this.

That’s the thing, you see. There’s very little reason to reconsider the decision that a given company is a spammer, and thus a bad company to do business with. The world is full of businesses which don’t spam. There’s no reason for me to keep doing business with the ones who spam me, so I don’t.

It’s the death of a thousand cuts. You can get off of a big-name blacklist, like the MAPS RBL, if you clean up your act. But my blacklist? You might not realize why you’re getting errors from our mail server, and even if you did, there’s a thousand others just like it. Or maybe ten thousand.

There’s a lot of learning curve here. Of course, most of the spam is just fly-by night scams, delivered mostly by viruses which, so far as anyone can tell, do nothing but send more spam. But there are real companies dabbling in this, and they never seem to learn from their mistakes. Idiots.

Some day, I should collect my funniest/worst spams, and put ‘em up for general consumption. We have Network Associates spamming a vendor’s support address, presumably because they scraped names off of one of their mail servers. We have all the people who send me spams in batches of five or more… It’s a recurring theme.

Peter Seebach

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