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Helping Possible Spammers?

by Marza (Vicar)
on Jan 17, 2003 at 06:59 UTC ( #227617=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I see another AM post Extracting message Id at the time of sending mails requesting help on mass mailings

One of my responsibilites at work is to monitor the spam filters. Lately I have noticed more and more headers referencing Mime Lite. I have not made an exact count as the filters block about a 1000 spams a day.

I guess this is a philosophical question. Do we continue to help everybody which is probably adding to spam? Do we take a stand and selectively eliminate obvious spammers?

Just something I am throwing out as I am adding new stuff to the block lists.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by Tanalis (Curate) on Jan 17, 2003 at 09:03 UTC
    It's very difficult to draw a line between "legitimate" questions/uses for mass-mailing (broadcast addresses for work networks, mailing lists and sign-up newscasts, etc.) and those that are going to be used only for spamming.

    Taking a very extreme viewpoint, the ultimate question that this can lead to is relatively simple: should we provide help for e-mail related solutions to problems at all? If we do, where should the line for legitimate, non-spam-oriented, questions be drawn? If not, again, where should the line be drawn?

    I do think that it's a sorry state of affairs that internet spam has reached the level that it has, and I think that any direct steps that we as a community can take to stop the expansion of spam from help that we provide should be taken. I don't think that it's a simple issue, though - it's a very grey area at the best of times - and there's no right or wrong answer, in my opinion.

    Something that does interest me, though, is that while we seem to see an increase in people asking for help about spam scripts, we don't seem to see the same increase in people asking for help with scripts that filter out spam - so maybe the situation isn't as bad as it seems.

    Long-term, however, I'd say that there's very little that can be done about the problem - either here or globally - and it's something we have to simply put up with, and consider the relevant nodes.

    -- Foxcub

      "Something that does interest me, though, is that while we seem to see an increase in people asking for help about spam scripts, we don't seem to see the same increase in people asking for help with scripts that filter out spam - so maybe the situation isn't as bad as it seems."

      I think the main reason for that is more people use Perl (or ASP or PHP) to automate outgoing mail in large quantities than for checking incoming mail.

      The majority of people who use Perl to check mail do so using a web based client provided by a third party, which already has spam filters in place and has no option for users to edit the code.

Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by IlyaM (Parson) on Jan 17, 2003 at 10:20 UTC
    I've seen that post and frankly I don't see anything that clearly indicates it being posted by possible spammer. He may or may not implementing completely legimate mailing list. I find it somewhat annoying that last time on perlmonks nearly all questions related to mass email sending are suspected to be posted by spammers. You have to put "no, it is not for spam" in them or you risk your node get deleted by NodeReaper.

    Besides there is very little difference if you answer on question posted by spammer or "good" guy. In both cases your answers are archived on perlmonks and later can be used by both spammers and "good" guys.

    Update: I'm curious why this node gets some downvotes. Is it offtopic or offensive? Not that I care about my XP (I have enough to be saint) but I just dislike when people silently express their disagreement with downvotes instead of commenting.

    --
    Ilya Martynov, ilya@iponweb.net
    CTO IPonWEB (UK) Ltd
    Quality Perl Programming and Unix Support UK managed @ offshore prices - http://www.iponweb.net
    Personal website - http://martynov.org

      I considered the node for reaping. From the logs he reported, it looked as if he were sending a great deal of mail through Yahoo!'s servers. That seemed dubious.

        Does yahoo have open-relays? I doubt so. So it must be an email sent to yahoo's mailbox. Is sending emails to yahoo mailbox is a sign of spammer? I doubt it too. For example in one of my projects I've implemented mass sending of various notifications to web site members (non-spam) and very large portion of email addresses was from free mailbox providers like yahoo, hotmail, etc. In this case probability of having a line in mail server logs which mentions yahoo servers was very high.

        --
        Ilya Martynov, ilya@iponweb.net
        CTO IPonWEB (UK) Ltd
        Quality Perl Programming and Unix Support UK managed @ offshore prices - http://www.iponweb.net
        Personal website - http://martynov.org

      Well - you won't get a downvote from me. I agree with you - while I dislike spam as much as the next guy, I really think that giving people the benefit of the doubt is the right thing to do here. Especially if the question comes from a relative newcommer.

      Michael

      I didn't downvote you. I consider any question or opinion legitimate. I was not suggesting the example was a spammer, just that it was another mass emailing request.

      I have mixed feelings about the spammer help. Somedays when the job annoys me and then dealing with the spam just adds to it, I am of the mind "delete it all" Most of the time I am of the thought that we help everybody because if we start defining who gets help, we will have lost what is special about this place.

Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by Callum (Chaplain) on Jan 17, 2003 at 09:06 UTC
    We can compare this situation to what is seen in many areas of science; most knowledge can in some way be used for ill aswell as good, yet the scientific community has developed over many decades on a foundation of sharing knowledge, publishing research, and peer review of discoveries. This wealth of freely available knowledge (whether Perl Monks, or scientific journals on nuclear engineering or genetic research) is as accessible to those doing legitimate work in the field as to less honourable types seeking to exploit the knowledge for applications most find unacceptable.

    Does this mean that public scientific research, and open sharing of knowledge, should be cut back in the interests of society at large? My gut reaction, and I suspect most peoples, is absolutely not; however it's a tough call in some areas these days.

    We can't limit what's already available, but we can take care on who we help -- the AM post in question is easy to ignore, if (s)he had logged in rather than AM, if he had described why he wanted to do this, if he had done anything to ease peoples suspicions he may have recieved advice; legitimate, or legitimate-looking questioners will receive better help from us than AM spammer-wannabees, in the same way that if I emailed an academic with a Q about nuclear physics I'd get a better response if I sent from @ucl.ac.uk than from @hotmail.com

Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by sauoq (Abbot) on Jan 17, 2003 at 20:14 UTC

    I simply don't answer questions about mass mailing. My thoughts on it are, "if you don't know what you are doing then maybe you shouldn't be doing it." Mass mailings, legitimate or not, can consume a lot of resources on others' machines. I think it is fair to expect a certain level of skill from people that engage in it.

    -sauoq
    "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
    
Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by Anonymous Monk on Jan 17, 2003 at 07:23 UTC
    Que?

    We help people trying to learn perl programming (right? right).

    Thems people like post some code (mostly), and get help.

    Spammers make money off spaming (right? right).

    So the AM is getting blocked by Yahoos spam blocking feature? (looks that way to me)

    I don't see any reason to help the dude as it stands now (polly wanna grep?).

    Furthermore, I don't see any reason to help the dude in the future (junior spammers/perl mongers of america does not exist).

    I got a real distate for spam and spammers. If a spammer is trying to learn perl to spam more, well, I don't like it, but it's not like I can do anything about it (besides not help, consider the node, -- the node, vote delete)

    I don't know what to tell you. Leaving the node alone works.

Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by scain (Curate) on Jan 17, 2003 at 16:56 UTC
Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by Wysardry (Pilgrim) on Jan 17, 2003 at 23:23 UTC

    That's a tough one, and can only really be considered on a case by case basis.

    I'd be less likely to want to help someone with something potentially dubious if they posted as an anonymous user though. After all, most people serious about learning Perl who had discovered a resource like this would want to register.

    Sometimes it pays to ask questions before answering and/or pointing out why certain practices are unacceptable.

    As a regular user of a free host's forum, I have found that the majority of people bending or breaking rules (or just plain annoying people) do so through ignorance.

    Who says we have to only teach Perl? ;)

    In the case of that particular anonymous poster, I have to admit that many of the details rang warning bells with me. Anyone who has built up a legitimate mailing list of "thousands" of users would likely be receiving enough of an income to be using a more robust mailing service, rather than sending via Yahoo.

    Very little care was taken in the composing of the question (he/she didn't bother hitting the shift key when typing "I" and the formatting is a mess. This also points to somebody wanting to earn a "fast buck".

    The fact that he/she was worrying so much about bounced and deferred mail, also reduces the likelihood that the recipients asked to be mailed.

    Therefore, I would be disinclined to help that particular user with that problem without further information from them. He/she is perfectly entitled to ask here, but I'm also within my rights to refuse to offer aid to whomever I choose, based on my own standards.

    If posts like that are refused entry into the main pages, I would prefer that reasons were given, so that the original poster and anyone else with the same type of question would know exactly what the objection was. Hopefully, more than one person will learn something that way.

Re: Helping Possible Spammers?
by ibanix (Hermit) on Jan 17, 2003 at 22:41 UTC
    A number of people seem to believe that we should not help anyone writing code that involves emailing a number of people or extracting email addresses, because of the potential for misuse.

    I find this logic similar to refusing sale of a personal weapon (read: handgun) because it may be used to commit a crime.

    You leave out all the people who have legimiate reasons for either owning a handgun, or working on large mail systems. There are legitimate ways to deal with criminials and spammers. Witholding support for everyone is not one of them.

    My $.02,
    ibanix

    $ echo '$0 & $0 &' > foo; chmod a+x foo; foo;
      I find this logic similar to refusing sale of a personal weapon (read: handgun) because it may be used to commit a crime.
      An interesting point, and one I accept (for the record, I'm strongly anti-gun control). However, I do think that if a man walks into a gun shop with a murderous gleam in his eye and says "I want the cheapest thing that can kill someone", the seller should think twice about helping him with a purchase.

      In this case, the AM seems to have a spammer's gleam in his eye. He has a list of thousands of users, but is posting an error log line from at most a couple hours before the post, which suggests that either (a) he's just started this mailing, in which case he shouldn't have that many people yet or (b) he's just started being blocked by Yahoo, presumably for a good reason.

      =cut
      --Brent Dax
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