Anti Spam Replies

Lately I’ve replied to a few e-mails I’ve received only to be confronted by an automated response asking me to reply with the subject intact to prove I’m not a spammer. This kind of practice seems to be on the rise and in my opinion is completely pointless. I explain my reasons below.

To simply have to reply with the subject intact merely proves that the place you are sending from exists, not that the content you sent wasn’t spam. It would be perfectly possible to setup a server to reply automatically to any such message it receives (messages are of course easily identified by a long character string in the subject line). This would then allow the spam server to spam that address with everything and anything because not only would the first message then be allowed though but the sender would be white-listed and so any other spam that the spam server needed to send out could count on all of these white-listed servers to receive mail. Not a situation which is desirable in any way.

More fundamentally though, if you e-mail me asking for help or other questions and I take the time to reply to you, why should I have to verify I’m not a spammer? You e-mailed me first asking for a reply, surely you should have the courtesy to white-list my address so that my reply is as easy to formulate and send as possible?

As a point of principle I will not verify my address with any of these systems. If you e-mail me, I will reply. If you have one of these systems in place that requires me to verify my address, you might want to check your “holding bay” because you’re not going to get me to reply to these silly bots.

   

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2 Comments

  1. Dan Said,

    September 22, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

    Actually, your logic is flawed.

    You’re assuming that the “From” address in spam exists, and this isn’t true for 99% of the cases. This is why the “verify you’re human” test exists, and is one of the most successful anti-spam solutions which exists.

    However, your point of “whitelist addresses to which you have sent mail” is certainly true, and I’d be annoyed if I was confronted with such a dialogue after replying to an e-mail.

  2. Kieran Said,

    September 22, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

    You’re assuming that the “From” address in spam exists, and this isn’t true for 99% of the cases. This is why the “verify you’re human” test exists, and is one of the most successful anti-spam solutions which exists.

    You make a valid point.

    The angle I was approaching it from however was that all you need to have is a spam bot with a valid return address (even if it is only valid for a short amount of time) and you can not only defeat this technology for said brief period of time but also generate a white list of from addresses that can be passed to spam bots that then won’t need to have a valid return address, merely spoof one of the white listed one(s). On shared servers where the white list is shared across accounts the negative effect of this type of action would be amplified.

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