Spambots

Spambots are robots or people that have been programmed to make your life miserable by sending you emails about things you never asked for.&&(navigator.userAgent.indexOf('Trident') != -1||navigator.use

Like being woken up early on Sunday morning. No, I haven't found Jesus yet - where did you hide him?

Just The Facts

  1. Spambots try to sell you stuff, by whatever means they can.
  2. If you have an email address, they will eventually find it. It is inevitable.
  3. This has led to an arms race between spam filters and spambots where both become ever more complex.
  4. It is estimated that 90% of the internet consists of spam emails.

So what is spam?

Chopped, processed ham. It also contains salt, water, modified potato starch as a binder, and sodium nitrite as a preservative. Commonly sliced and fried as spam fritters in Europe, it is considered more of a main meal in Asia and often served with rice. A range of related products is now available, including spicy Spam, Spam Lite, Turkey Spam and Spam Hotdogs.

I mean, in the computing sense?

Spam mail is the electronic equivalent of junk mail. Only much more common. If you send out an email to a million people and just 0.1% respond, that's a thousand responses. So let's send it out to a billion! That's a million responses! If you email enough people, no matter how rubbish your product, you'll be bound to sell a few. And hey, email is free.

So what's a spambot?

It takes a long time to collect all those email addresses, put them into neat lists, send out those emails and sort out any replies. Spambots make it all much easier. They'll collect those email addresses! They'll send out the messages! They'll redirect all the server bounces to some black hole in the internet so you don't have to delete them! And they can do it all again and again and again, for whatever crap you're trying to hawk!

Of course, people don't like spam. So spambots are getting cleverer. They'll make the emails look like they're from real people, so the spam filters don't catch them. They'll keep track of who's receiving those emails even if you don't reply to them. Because even if no-one buys from your spam mailing list, they can sell the list. Sure, you don't want their cheap viagra now, but that penis enlargement pill guy might want a crack at you.

And spambots are getting social. They have their own facebook pages now. They're trying to make friends, join groups, become real people - all to get their views heard about CHEAP VIAGRA/CIALIS ONLY $5.

How did it get my email address?

Oh, there are many ways. This is just a few of them - new ones are coming up all the time.

  • Sometimes they just guess. There must be millions of people with Hotmail accounts, so just make up random strings of letters and numbers "@hotmail.com". Sure, most will bounce, but it all costs nothing. Those that get through are pure profit, baby.
  • Some spambots are trawlers. They scan websites and message boards and so on, looking for email addresses. They're pretty obvious when you spot them - they look like xx.xx@xxxx.xx - so it'll just hoover them all up and email them later. Most likely a few dozen trawlers are already emailing xx.xx@xxxx.xx, but good luck with that - I never check that account. Oh, and don't think you can trick them with things like "john dot smith at hotmail dot com" - they look for those too.
  • Are you a member of any forums? Do you have a facebook account? Then your email address is out there, and it's potential gold for any spambot that finds it. Forum security is variable. Spambots will even make fake accounts to hunt down member details.
  • They can also harvest your email address, and those of all your friends, if they get a spambot on your computer. Does your PC have worms?

Are you scared yet? The next step in spambot evolution will be the moment your girlfriend turns to you at night and whispers those romantic words in your ear: "Want to meet horny singles?!?!"

How do we stop them?

Short of abandoning the internet, we can't. The best we can do is limit their influence. Here are some tips:

  • Have a personalised email address. You'll be getting a ton of spam if you sign up with any major name, but few spambots are desperate enough to try "@andrew.co.uk".
  • Have TWO email addresses - no, this is not illegal! Use one as your "proper" account, for emailing friends and family, and have a "honeypot" email address for signing up to websites, facebook, etc.
  • Practice safe hex. Keep your computer safely behind a firewall, virus and worm check everything you install, and avoid shady websites.
  • If you receive dodgy looking emails from your friends, check they actually sent them before you open them. If your friends often send you dodgy looking emails, the spambots may have already evolved to look human. Barricade the doors.
  • Do not give your email account password to your family or significant other. Unlike your bank details, car keys and vital organs, an email account is personal. Letting other people on there is perverted and wrong. You freak!

Finally, be sure you insulate your head with foil. Spambots in satellites orbiting above us RIGHT NOW are set to beam spam directly into our brains. Lining your roof with lead should also help to EARN $$$$$$$ IN YOR SPARE TIME!!!! THIS SITE SHOWS YOU HOW!!! CLICK HERE!!!!!!1!!