Feeds

Why is Hotmail so bad at spam?

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

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

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.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
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.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.