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May 24, 2006

Spam spider infiltrates World Wide Web

The itsy bitsy spider crawls up the message board.

The spider, a program spammers use to collect e-mail messages, silently creeps into public bulletins and chat rooms where unwitting prey post their e-mail addresses. Eyeing an “@” between characters in an e-mail address, the cyber spider quickly wraps around the live catch, spinning it into his web holding thousands of confiscated addresses.

The catch is presented to a spammer who stores his prize on a CD filled with millions of other stolen addresses, which he then sells for a quick profit. Those who buy the CDs concoct bogus e-mails using attention-grabbing words and misleading claims to attract their next catch.

Hiding beneath a cloak of fictitious headers, the spammer uses one of his identity concealers, such as bot-networks, open proxies, open mail relays, or untraceable Internet connections, before releasing his message to millions of e-mail addresses around the world.

Those who can’t outwit anti-spammers are crushed under the boot of spam blockers and filters. Others are scooped up and thrown into a spam folder where an e-mail user can quickly spot their spindly legs.

If the spam critters are sneaky enough, they hide themselves in the unguarded cracks and eventually scurry by the hundreds into your inboxes, cleverly camouflaged as advertisements for cheap pharmaceuticals, pay-in-advance credit offers and debt relief.

Either way, the e-mail user most often recognizes the disguise and quickly quashes the messages or repels future visits by reporting the invader.

But the bug will be back.

Because every now and then curiosity gets the best of a handful of people who are drawn to the creature’s web promoting free stock tips, prizes or cash giveaways.

It’s feeding time again for this spammer.

And the itsy bitsy spider crawls up the board again.



Tai Shadrick is a reporter for Cumberland (Md.) Times-News and a CNHI News Service Elite Reporting Fellowship alternate.

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