Blue Security plans to overwhelm spammers with complaints and
The company's intention is to take the fight to spammers by enlisting
end users to create what's called a Do-Not-Intrude registry whose
purpose is to make it too painful for junk mailers to operate.
If a spammer sends you spam, you have a right to complain, said Eran
Reshef, the chief executive of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Blue Security.
If they send you one spam, you complain one time. If they send you a
thousand spams, you can complain a thousand times, but I know that is
not considered politically correct by a few of the more vocal netizens.
It's the volume on which spam operates and Blue Security's plan
Starting Monday, users can download Blue Security's Blue Frog client
and sign up with the Do-Not-Intrude registry. Once the software's
installed, users can register up to three e-mail addresses to monitor
for spam. Blue Security, however, watches not only those addresses but
up to a dozen accounts it sets up for that act as additional
"honeypots," or accounts designed to attract spam.
Blue Security analyzes the messages it receives from the users'
accounts (as well as all others who sign up), then follows the links
inside the spam to (hopefully) the originating site where, for
instance, products or services pitched by the junk mail are
sold. There, forms are identified that accept text -- an order form,
perhaps, or a customer service form -- and its fields are
automatically filled with a message demanding that the e-mail
account's address be removed from the spammer's list.
"I kindly ask that you cease sending me or other registered users
spam," the message reads.
The idea, said Reshef, is to punish the spammer for his actions.
Although the scheme doesn't generate mail to the spammer -- spam for
spam, so to speak -- the volume of Web traffic should be enough to
cripple the spammer's Web site.
"The sheer amount of complaints going to the spammer's site is going
to make it hard [for that site] to do anything else, said Reshef.
Spam is analyzed by Blue Security staff, said Reshef, who investigate
the spam, verify that it violates the federal CAN-SPAM Act, trace the
message to a Web site, and pinpoint a form on the site that can be
used to complain. The Blue Frog handles everything else for the
The opt-out complaints are synchronized, so that all users whose
accounts are monitored file simultaneously.
Although Reshef repeatedly said that the practice was not illegal, the
end result is very close to a denial-of-service attack, in which a
collection of computers simultaneously try to access a Web server with
the intention of bringing it down under the sheet volume of traffic.
Reshef aggressively defended the concept and rejected the idea that it
was a DoS in disguise. "We have a right to complain," he said. "The
spammers have the right to send us spam, and we cant say anything? No,
thats not right.
"We're not creating any harm. Were not trying to shut down any Web
sites. But we have the right to complain, one for one," he added.
Other fight-back tactics against spammers have failed in the
past. Last year, Lycos Europe rolled out a screensaver that conducted
DoS attacks against known spammers. Within days, however, Lycos
buckled under pressure from security groups -- which called it
vigilantism -- and ISPs, who worried that attacks originating from
their members would make them liable to legal action on the part of
"Our effort is completely different from what Lycos did," said
Reshef. "Lycos used a hit list of spammers. We're only responding to
actual spam. And each user is responding only to the spam he or she
Some may see it as a difference in semantics. But Reshef sees it as
"We've already seen it work," he said. "The spammers don't like what
we're doing, and some of them during our tests tried to modify their
site on the fly to keep out complaints." Two other sites that he
declined to name, he said, have agreed to stop sending spam to the
real and honeypot accounts.
"We need a critical mass of users for this to work," Reshef
acknowledged. "If enough people abandon the idea of passively
filtering spam and realize that unrelenting action is required, we can
together stand up for our online rights."
Once its built up a sufficient community of users to ding spammers'
Web sites, Blue Security plans to offer the service to enterprises for
The Blue Frog client can be downloaded free of charge from the Blue
Security Web site. http://www.bluesecurity.com
Copyright 2005 CMP Media LLC.
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