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The Witches' Voice Guide to SPAM
by Steve McManus
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All those exclamation points look familiar, don't they? These are just a few of the subject lines that have piled up in our inboxes here at The Witches' Voice, and we suspect you've seen them too. And let's not forget the constant worry about whether or not we are getting our inkjet cartridges at the lowest cost! We're tired of this stuff, we're sure you are too, and so we've assembled all the information you will need to understand how SPAM works, and what you can do to help stop the flood.

How Spammers Get Your Address

Ever wondered how these idiots find your e-mail address? Some shmuck goes to Yahoo! or Altavista, or some other search engine and types in the word "witch" or "occult" or whatever, and goes down the list generated by the engine. Then highlights, copies and pastes into a file all the domains listed. The list is then fed into an email collection program. That program goes to work scanning those domains for all the email addresses on them and as it finds them it collects them in a file on the perpetrator's computer. To accomplish this scanning, one of the 15 or so programs we found that are designed specifically for this task can be used, the average size of which is about 600k.

Here's an excerpt from an ad for one of these mail collection programs:
"&*%$# is a powerful and easy to use email addresses extractor available for Windows 95/98/NT/2000. Using it you can easily get email addresses from web sites..."

Once the perpetrator has collected all the email addresses from all the sites that were scanned, they are fed into yet another program - a spamming tool - that collates them and creates a database which it uses to send out large amounts of email on an automated basis. We found 20 or so bulk email programs that were readily available. One of these was actually created by Microsoft and continues to be offered by them. It is not technically a spamming tool as it is designed as an "opt-in" software tool. "Opt-in" means people actually signed up for emails from a certain source, such as an ezine or news service. An abuse of opt-in software occurs when perpetrators use a collected list of emails and enter it as though those people signed up themselves. Since the software can't differentiate between bogus and legitimate, they offenders get away with it.

Here's an excerpt from an ad for one of these bulk email (spam) programs:
"&*%$# as a bulk emailer acts like a self-sufficient SMTP relay, sending your customized message straight out to the recipient's mail server ...without using your ISP's SMTP server......."

Most ISP's (Internet Service Providers) prohibit what is known as Mail Relay. Mail relay is when you are logged onto the Net on one domain (XYZ.net) and are sending out emails configured as though they were sent from another domain where you aren't actually surfing from (ABC.net). These bulk email programs allow the bad guys to get around this problem by enabling the spammer's computer to be the e-mail server for their traffic rather than the one at their ISP.

The spamming tool program then sends the same email to all addresses on the list - and we all get to read the crap they send us.

And that's how they do it.

Now Here's How You Can Stop Them!

One of the safest types of email is web-based email. Two of the most popular web-based email services are Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail. If you use either of those two, here's where to look to block spam from your inbox:

Using Yahoo Mail Spamguard:
Click on "Options"
then "Filters"
and then "Create a Filter" or select "Block Addresses".

In Hotmail:
Click on "Options"
then under "Mail Handling", click on "Junk Mail Filters" and set it to "exclusive" and click "OK".
This way, only those people you have put on your address book can reach you at your Hotmail address.

Aside from web-based email, there is what is called POP mail. POP stands for "Post Office Protocol". If someone signs up with XYZ.net, they generally get an address like blahblahblah@XYZ.net. XYZ would be the ISP here in this example and each ISP maintains not one, but two types of email servers. One is the POP server that receives your email and holds it for you until you can retrieve it, and the other is the SMTP server. SMTP stands for "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol". It takes all of your emails that you write and when you hit "send" it makes sure they get sent.

At least one ISP, Earthlink, offers some spam protection to their POP customers with a product called the Spaminator. If you joined EarthLink after July 14, 2000, the Spaminator is already working for you. If you joined prior to that date and haven't activated this protection, click here for more information: http://www.earthlink.net/home/tools/epa/spaminator/

The email program you use on your computer for POP mail is known as the "Client". One of the best ways to block spam is to configure your e-mail client to filter it. You can tell the client to take any given e-mail address, or even an entire domain (for instance, block anything from @herbalviagra.com). Here's how to do that with some of the most popular email clients:
  • Microsoft Outlook 2000,
  • Microsoft Outlook Express 5,
  • Netscape Messenger 4.7, and
  • Eudora Pro 4.2 and 5.0
How to configure your email filter:

For Microsoft Outlook 2000, click here.
For Microsoft Outlook Express 5, click here.
For Netscape Messenger 4.7, click here.
For Eudora Pro 4.2 and 5.0 click here.

Now you know how to block an offending email address once you receive it the first time. Let's take it a step further and give you the tools to keep them from doing it anymore. It should be noted here that only 19 states in the U.S. have anti-spam laws currently on the books http://law.spamcon.org/us-laws/index.shtml. There is currently pending legislation at the Federal level which would make spam a crime nationwide http://www.spamlaws.com/federal/hr95.html. Unfortunately, most of the language of this bill refers to misleading headers on email masking the true origins of its creation. In other words, it's not so much the spam as the means by which to track it. That aside, here is how to submit the spam you get to the government so they can use it to enact a law that they can enforce.

Remember, to shut down a spammer, you have to show: Their host ISP that they have violated their Terms of Use policies; and/or Their State Government (in the 19 states where there is a law) that a law has been broken.

Never reply to a professional spammer. Report it to either the ISP and/or the State if applicable and send a copy of the spam as you received it to the US Federal Trade Commission at: uce@ftc.gov and make sure the headers and cc info are visible to all recipients. The US Federal Trade Commission monitors the spam situation on behalf of the US government and has asked that you please forward every spam you get.

AOL users should know that if they are spammed from another AOL address-and it's easy to tell without looking at the headers; you'll just see a screen name as the From: address-you should forward that e-mail to TOSSPAM, which is an AOL administrative address that deals with spam (TOS stands for Terms of Service).

If you want to report the spam to the ISP, make sure you know where it is coming from. The From: addresses on most spam emails are forged-you need to be able to read the headers and decode the origin of the spam to know where to complain.

Here's how to show the headers:

For Microsoft Outlook 2000:
1. Go to the Inbox,
2. Double-click the email item in question,
3. Click View,
4. Click Options,
5. Highlight and copy the header info found in the window at the bottom.

For Microsoft Outlook Express 5:
1. Go to the Inbox,
2. Select the email item in question, 3. Click File,
4. Click Properties,
5. Click the Details tab,
6. Highlight and copy the header info found in the window at the bottom.

For Netscape Messenger 4.7:
1. Go to the Inbox,
2. Click View,
3. Click Headers,
4. Click All, if it isn't already selected.

For Eudora Pro 4.2:
1. Go to the Inbox,
2. Double-click on the email item in question.

For Eudora Pro 5.0:
1. Open the e-mail,
2. Click the "blah, blah, blah" button on the toolbar.

To find out more about decoding headers, and how to shoot down spammers yourself, try these sites:

http://combat.uxn.com/
http://combat.uxn.com/tracing.html
http://www.abuse.net/
http://www.cauce.org/
http://www.junkbusters.com/ht/en/junkmail.html
http://www.elsop.com/wrc/nospam.htm
http://members.hostedscripts.com/antispam.html

There is also this long, dry piece about how to break down email headers: http://www.stopspam.org/email/headers/headers.html.

If you use the link that some spammers provide to "unsubscribe" your address, it only serves as an open window by showing the spammer that your address is in fact a valid, active address. Using a filter will prevent you from having to wade through any more emails from them.

Feel free, however, to respond to Pagan spammers targeting you on the basis of your being Pagan. This is an intrusion and a betrayal from a supposed "Brother" or "Sister". It's based on greed and disrespect. It is we the Pagans ourselves that DO empower Pagan spammers by simply deleting those emails and not taking those members of our community to task for violating our space. When you are hit by a Pagan spammer, still report it, but also respond to them in no uncertain terms that this has to stop.

If you have something more than spam on your hands, like harassment and threats, it's a good idea to notify the authorities first. In these days of anything-goes, no threat should be dismissed. If you feel you need to, email our Security Director and Witchvox will help if we can. Send requests to: steve.

Many thanks to Witchvox Founders Wren Walker and Fritz Jung as well as the rest of the dedicated and capable Witchvox Staff for their assistance in compiling this article.

Sincerely,

Steve McManus
Internal Security
The Witches' Voice, Inc.

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