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Message storm turns DHS email list into social networking utility

'May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

A misfired attempt by one subscriber to change the email address he used for receiving messages caused a storm in the a US Department of Homeland Security's mailing list today.

Instead of sending a message to the list administrators, job-changing security consultant Alex hit the reply-to-all button. His message was sent to every subscriber of the DHS's Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report. Attempts to recall this message were futile.

At first several people began firing off tetchy don't reply-to-all messages, which were, of course, sent to everyone on the list. Quickly this led to the disclosure of the email addresses of fellow members of the list, addresses that are normally hidden in the DHS's daily updates.

Some remarked that the message storm had generated an excellent social networking tool before swapping weather reports with each other. Again these messages were sent to everyone.

Minutes later, spam messages such as one for a "handhole locking device" that controls access to utility vaults and fiber boxes, began circulating on the list. Some of the replies that continued to flow featured the name, phone numbers and company name of list subscribers - useful information for would-be scammers if it fell into the wrong hands.

Some subscribers got pretty upset at around this and vented their spleen. "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits and may a yak in heat make love to your shin," noted Michael.

A couple of hours into the storm, more than 200 messages were generated turning the mailing list in a 21st century equivalent of a news net group. Most security experts took it all in their stride, though some asked to be removed from the list.

"Stop the insanity," pleaded Terence.

"I can see the headlines now," noted Steve, "'DHS gets spammed with its own reports'." Another subscriber wisely noted that the whole mess could have been avoided, if only the email mailout system had not been set up to automatically forward replies. ®

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