Thursday, 26 June 2008

Lured by free laptops?

Actually the following story was carried by The Hindu on May 08, 2008. I thought of reproducing it today after I received a mail (forwarded from several senders earlier) from a well-meaning colleague. It spoke of a free gift of laptops to those who would forward the mail to eight persons. I responded to the forward as follows:
" I am little intrigued by your mail today about free laptops to those who circulate the mail to eight persons. This reminded me of the chain post cards (Saibaba/ Santoshi Mata). Only fortunately, today there was no threat about heavy loss/damage/death in the family if the mail is not circulated.
Jokes apart, is there anyone who actually received the laptops? Or at least any one who confirmed from the company if there is any such scheme?
I clicked to download attachment and as anticipated it had a virus. I have quickly deleted the mail."

I request all of you to read the following and take appropriate action if you receive the chain mails as above.

Happy birthday spam, but no returns please
There is no sign of abatement as Net baddies use sophisticated ‘botnets’
— Photo: Bijoy Ghosh

Cracked: Spammers have succeeded in cracking CAPTCHA that was designed to keep automated spam out.
Not all anniversaries are the occasion for celebration: One birthday in particular, has been attracting hostile notice on the Web. “You are 30 years old, and while most of us hope that you get a heart attack and die before you are 31, chances are you will outlive us all,” was one savage comment at the Australian portal, IT Wire. Another went: “Happy 30th birthday — but hopefully, no unhappy returns of the day!”

It is 30 years since the first ‘spam’ message — unsolicited e-mail — was sent over the Internet.

The precursor

On May 3, 1978, Gary Thuerka, salesperson for the Digital Equipment Corporation, sent a mail to 393 users of what was then Arpanet, the precursor to Internet, inviting them to a demonstration of DEC’s latest computer “Digital will be giving a product presentation of the newest members of the decsystem-20 family….we invite you to come see the 2020 and hear about the decsystem-20 family at the two product presentations we will be giving in California this month…”Arpnet’s military administrator sent a strongly worded message to all the addressees of the original mail: “…this was a flagrant violation of the use of arpanet as the network is to be used for official U.S. Government business only.

Appropriate action is being taken to preclude its occurrence again… Major Raymond Czahor”


And that was that. For a decade after Internet as we know it today, was born, junk mail was unknown. Today, spam seems unstoppable: While leading Net security providers like Symantec, TrendMicro or McAfee, as well as all the main e-mail providers, try and filter out as much spam, as they can recognize, it is still an uphill task:100 billion spasm are sent off everyday.

Last week, Web security services provider, MessageLabs, released its Intelligence Report for 2008, where it finds that spammers increasingly use sophisticated new tools like botnets — robot programmes that aim to ‘capture’ your PC.

Bots lurk in the background of the captured computer, without destroying files or disrupting the computer’s operation. You may be ignorant of the ‘dirty work’ afoot, and might only notice slightly sluggish performance of your PC.

New technique

The report says a new spamming technique is being currently used to get past Yahoo Mail’s servers. It has already reached Indian users of Yahoo mail: Kiran Thakur, former head of Pune University’s Journalism Department, has forwarded to The Hindu, a mail he received last week, purportedly from Yahoo ‘Customer Care,’ which asks the email account holders to provide confidential details.

It is clearly not from Yahoo. Dr Thakur has a email ID; so he seems to have been a victim of the attack on Yahoo mail’s U.S.-based services. It is not known to have hit users of mail services.

The semi-annual Symantec Internet Threat Security Report, just released, says, there has been an increasing use of Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail, and other webmail services by spammers.

They have even succeeded in cracking CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) the technique used by web e-mail services to prevent wholesale automated account signups by spammers.

Typically, CAPTCHA requires humans to decipher a string of letters that are distorted to prevent automated reading.


According to ‘The Spam Report,’ Another spam technique is Backscatter: “The sender simply places the target recipient in the ‘from:’ header, and then a random email address in the ‘to:’ header, so the spam fails to reach its target and bounces straight back to the sender.

If you want to keep spam-laden ‘bots’ away from your PC, there is a useful list of hints posted by the IT department of the University of Wisconsinat Madison ( for details, go to ).

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