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What is spam good for?

Your suggestions for eliminating and responding to spam.

We at are pretty much resigned to the fact that our users prefer not to share details about their security strategies. Given the industry hazards, we understand and respect this. You'll understand, then, why we were surprised by the resounding response to my solicitation for practical uses for spam. More than 30 users wrote in with suggestions for responding to and eliminating unsolicited e-mail.

These responses ranged from practical solutions to off-the-wall revenge tactics to use against spammers. I have to admit, after reading your e-mails, I feel motivated to do more than just click delete when I see those telltale subject lines. Here are a handful of the suggestions you sent in.

  • Create a distribution list of organizations and individuals that support the legal right to have spam mail and have those against spam forward their unsolicited e-mail to the entities on the list.

  • Use spam as an electronic shredder. Overwrite files in a special folder with random strings of the junk mail until they are unreadable.

  • Easily add volume to bloated reports that nobody reads, such as annual reports, safety and disaster-recovery plans, employee handbooks, etc.

  • Comb through phrases for new, innovative buzz words to replace tired workplace lingo, such as "Safe and natural way to enlarge our production figures" and "Lengthen the replacement window of opportunity."

  • Cut out the pictures and make a collage, origami animals, paper dolls, etc.

  • Actually respond to the spam with bogus information. For example, if you're getting an offer to refinance your house, tell them your home originally cost $14 million, your credit is bad and your monthly payment is $1.

  • Create an e-mail system that, when it identifies spam, generates a nasty electrical shock directed at the sender.

  • The only way to truly erase a hard drive is to overwrite it with other data. So what if we sent all of our company's spam to a mailbox on a drive we wanted to erase? We could erase a 60-gigabyte hard drive every week. Even if we missed one sector on a drive, anyone wanting our data would have to wade through gigabytes of spam before they found it.

  • Save all the get rich quick e-mails and forward them to the folks that send requests for money, thereby cutting out the middle man.

  • Send the e-mail, with full headers, to the company supposedly represented in the e-mail. Then e-mail to the spammer to tell them what you have done and thank them for providing the company with evidence to pursue legal action for copyright infringement.

  • Start a new reality TV show called Spam Gladiators, in which the contestants (i.e. spammers) demonstrate the full effects of their products and services on each other.

    And, of course, many of you mentioned the edible qualities of Spam and even offered recipes. But that's a column for another day. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some e-mail to follow up on.

    For more information on this topic, visit these other resources:
  • Featured Topic: Thwarting spam
  • Best Web Links: Secure Messaging
  • News & Analysis: Researcher chews fat on spam and security
  • This was last published in April 2003

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