I turned off the trackback feature of this blog a long time ago. It’s not that I don’t like trackbacks. It’s just that the spam became too much – hundreds and hundreds a day. And, let me tell you, trackback spam is the worst. It seems to be produced in hell by a gang of very efficient and very warped demons.
I also had to start forcing people to register before commenting. I know it stinks but, again, I can’t deal with the spam (even with a filter). I turned off the comment registration requirement a few days ago just to see what would happen. I had 50 spam comments in ten minutes. I noticed, too, that their quality is up in general – quality in spam being measured by the degree of deviousness. The new thing seems to be to start with a couple of sentences about something in the news in order to slide by the filter. It works pretty well, too. Congratulations, guys.
And email spam? I’ve been under the impression that it’s been getting a lot worse recently. Hundreds get caught by my spam filter every day, and a few dozen more get through. Stock tips, mainly. Relentlessly annoying. Apparently my impression is right. A new study says that nine out of every ten email messages today are spam. When I first saw that figure, I said to myself, in a loud voice, “No way!” Then I thought about it a little more, and I shouted back at myself, “Way!”
Nine out of ten.
That’s a lot of spam.
The New York Times reports that spammers have successfully defeated the four main strategies used by filters: evaluating where a message is coming from (useless with botnets that take over innocent people’s PCs), checking the text for tell-tale keywords (text has been replaced with images of text), scanning for multiple copies of the same message (spammers use software to automatically alter a couple of pixels in every message), and checking embedded links (you don’t need a link if you’re just trying to get someone to buy a stupid penny stock).
So how many suckers are actually going to buy some obscure penny stock based on a ridiculous spam tip? The answer: enough. The Times gives the lowdown:
Spammers buy the inexpensive stock of an obscure company and send out messages hyping it. They sell their shares when the gullible masses respond and snap up the stock … Though the scam sounds obvious, a joint study by researchers at Purdue University and Oxford University this summer found that spam stock cons work. Enough recipients buy the stock that spammers can make a 5 percent to 6 percent return in two days, the study concluded.
It’s all about zero costs and unlimited scale. Given enough eyeballs, no scam is too shallow. If you want a lesson in the new economics of abundance, there’s no better place to look than at the business of spam. It’s all there.