Spammers struggle with words

^^ a BUL"KY 'PO;L`E

With spam blocking companies trying to ward off the latest advances, spammers are making strenuous attempts to get around e-mail filters. Their latest ploy: Spam with subject lines that read ^^ a BUL"KY 'PO;L`E or ‘Extend y:ou^r r;od` ^easy’. Say again?

The majority of anti-spam software currently on the market, still use keyword or trigger-word lists to identify and eradicate spam. With all kinds of word tricks or empty HTML tags to break up suspect words, some of the spam manages to pass through these scanners undetected.

But it is getting harder and harder. Email blocking software is getting smarter too. The newest filters often use a scoring system to determine whether a message is spam or legitimate, and they’re winning.

With most of the spam, you will still find the words Viagra, insurance or penis in the subject line, but those are easy to detect. The old trick was to chop up these words with random computer code. Separating letters with commas or spaces - "L-o-o-k younger" - can also trip up some filters, but less so than a couple of months ago.

Some spammers try to pass filters by inserting random dictionary words, or by attaching a big chunk of neutral text, typically from a book, but according to this report it is a losing battle. The appended text doesn't look like spam, but nor does it resemble normal email. So it gets killed.

Intentional misspellings (such as ‘V1agra’) end up having higher spam probabilities than the words the spammers intend to conceal, and breaking up words has the same effect. Sending the spam hidden within a Javascript program fails for a similar reason.

The other trick is to pretend that the message is from someone you know. However, since more and more Internet users are getting streetwise and won’t open messages from complete strangers, messages with subject lines as ‘Lets work this out’ or ‘I don't ‘understand’ prove increasingly ineffective.

Lately, more and more spam seems to carry peculiar subject lines as "great meds at attractive price dtsprfguoyufnlrikbunwejtfbregm" or "ebay insiders club. hundkysga". The weird characters are created automatically and randomly so that thousands of messages don't arrive with the same subject line, which filters know they can discard as spam.

Spammers probably think that by adding more and more garbage to their messages, they get a higher hit rate. Although the trick may fool some scanners, spammers forget one important thing. No one in his right mind is going to open up a message that reads ‘C;ome v;isit o,ur do-ctors v^aek?’. It could be Swedish for all you know. By talking gobbledygook, spammers have found the perfect way to eliminate themselves. ®

Sign up to our Newsletter

Get IT in your inbox daily

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017