Has anyone noticed that spam comes in fashions? A couple of days ago, my crap e-mail account got a million spams that misspelled “health” “healtch” to get past spam filters. So I updated the filters to get rid of those. Today, the fashion seems to be bogus phishing-style fedex messages saying one’s package was misdirected.
The thing with this kind of spam is that it’s self-defeating. One bogus fedex message might be believable enough to get people to open the attachment.* Five or ten slightly different ones once is obviously spam. So I doubt these are all sent by one person. Rather, my guess is that one spammer comes up with a new format to get past the filters, then other spammers observe and copy it.
Someone might have fun applying some economic-style reasoning to the problem. In a whole bunch of different directions. Viz:
- Is this an example of a perfect-competition market (because cost of entry is so low) where profits are actually driven down to zero? i.e., as long as the expected revenues from a given spam e-mail are greater than the di minimis cost of sending, another spammer will join, driving revenues down, etc.
- Is there a solution in which early entrants pay late entrants to stay out?
- What’s the second-best amount of any given template of spam for recipients? The optimal amount is of course zero. But above zero, there are pressures in both directions — fewer spams means one is more likely to successfully deceive you, imposing a cost, more spams mean your email box chokes. Somewhere in the middle is the most-preferred nonzero spam amount.
- Do less crooked marketing strategies have the same dynamics?
- What would happen if spammers were given intellectual property rights in their spam templates?
* I actually kinda want to open these attachments, just to see what happens. I do, after all, have a Mac, which can laugh off most trojans… perhaps in a virtual machine somewhere? Or, hah, on a kinko’s computer?