Feeds

Common usernames get more spam

Time to evolve, aardvarks

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The use by spammers of dictionary attacks means those whose email address begins with a less common first character are liable to get less spam.

Research by Richard Clayton of Cambridge University was initially reported as establishing that usernames beginning with A are likely to get more spam than those sporting a Z.

Those with email addresses starting with A - "aardvarks" - got 35 per cent spam, but "zebras" received a mere 20 per cent.

That's true, but it's only part of a bigger picture, Clayton clarified on Friday.

"The point being that the effect I am describing has little to do with Z being at the end of the alphabet, and A at the front, but seems to be connected to the relative rarity of zebras," Clayton explained.

M and P are popular first letters for people’s names. Each get around 42 per cent spam, more than those whose usernames begin with A.

Clayton based his analysis on email traffic logs maintained by Demon Internet. The ISP filters automatically filters out some spam based on its origin, so the percentage of spam to real email (ham) received by Demon users is better than commonly quoted figures that four in five email messages or more circulating on the net are junk mail.

The study revealed a disparity between the proportions of spam received by active addresses with different first characters.

The actual volume of spam a user receives will depend on factors such as whether they have been careful not to post their email address online or to avoid responding to dodgy offers. Clayton's research shows that even averaging out different behaviours, something as simple as the first character in an email address can have a big effect on the junk mail volumes a user receives.

"The most likely reason for these results is the prevalence of 'dictionary' or 'Rumpelstiltskin' attacks (where spammers guess addresses). If there are not many other zebras, then guessing zebra names is less likely," Clayton explained.

"Aardvarks should consider changing species — or asking their favourite email filter designer to think about how this unexpected empirical result can be leveraged into blocking more of their unwanted email," he added.

Clayton presented his research in a paper (pdf) at the fifth conference on email and anti-spam in Mountain View, California, earlier this month. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.