Feeds

Why is Hotmail so bad at spam?

Tell me why, I don't like Hotmail...

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Column I'm trying very hard to be sympathetic towards Hotmail, and I'm failing, badly.

It's not the Microsoft connection that makes me fed up, it's just Hotmail.

Here's today's inbox:

From my contacts: 2 (2)
Marquita@viagra.com RE: Online Canadian Pharma...
admin@speedtrader.co... RE: Daily News

If you believe I have a contact called Marquita at viagra dot com, you're mad. I can't think of a single email provider who would not intercept ANY mail from that address and shoot it on sight. Letting the mail through is a trivial blunder, however, compared with allowing such a person to claim "contact status" with me.

A list of contacts in Hotmail is a list of people you acknowledge as contacts. Not just someone who writes an email saying; "I'm a contact!" in a bright cheerful voice, but someone whose credentials have been checked and validated by you.

In my inbox are some choice emails. One is from GIRLS WANNABE <girslwannaotjllluv288@yahoo.com>

Yes, Girls Wannabe - not in any way an unlikely name for a legitimate email sender, you're bound to agree? An offer of a Spanish camp for adolescents. All looks pretty innocent...I'm not going there to find out whether it is.

I have a letter from <admin@newloto.com> which may well be information about my recent enrichment. One more lottery win. I wouldn't know where to put the money if they were all legitimate.

Again, you'd think any spam service worth a damn would choke straight away on the word "loto" before it spotted the content. You'd certainly think it would recognise the content, because it's perfectly obvious that this was not sent just to me personally, but to a million recipients.

Then there's the message which begins: "gu?i quy?t d?nh vi?c n?m b?t hay không co h?i dó là tu?i tr? chúng ta. Thang giá tr? s?ng b? d?o l?n thì chúng ta ph?i l?p l?i. Khi phong bì tràn ng?p công s?, d? b? vào c? gi?ng du?ng và b?nh vi?n, thì l?p tr? chúng ta cùng si?t tay, d?n du?i t? n?n d?n t?n cùng."

It rather goes downhill from there, but again, any ordinary human would be able to detect this as spam, and an email provider as big as Microsoft Hotmail really ought not to have problems with it.

Hotmail also failed to recognise a known spam service provider, Lemuel Q Turner <ClevelandLidia@aera.net> who offered me marketing services to the US medical community, with a couple of sample deals:

Physicians: 700 thousand doctors in the US. Data is provided in Excel format and sortable by state or specialty. Over a dozen different fields and more than 30 specialties. Individual Cost: $349

Hospital Admins: 23 thousand in all with data for the CEO, CFO, CIO, COO and more Individual Cost: $220

Again, you can't believe that a functioning spam filter would let this junk through. But it did.

OK, you'll have got the message. It's clear that Hotmail is doing its duty to deliver emails to people, if there's any possibility at all that they might be legitimate. It's taking the view that if it filters too strictly, people will get on its case for filtering out legitimate business communications, and setting its target high enough that only the most obvious spam will get trapped.

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Knock Knock tool makes a joke of Mac AV
Yes, we know Macs 'don't get viruses', but when they do this code'll spot 'em
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Why weasel words might not work for Whisper
CEO suspends editor but privacy questions remain
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
BlackEnergy crimeware coursing through US control systems
US CERT says three flavours of control kit are under attack
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.