SpywareInfo HomeXcleaner
September 7, 2002

You know what? I've decided that it really should be necessary for people to pass an IQ test before being allowed onto the internet.

Pop quiz!

How do you unsubscribe from a newsletter?
A.) Click the link provided which removes your address from the mailing list
B.) Forward the newsletter as spam

If you chose A, congratulations! You have a brain! Unfortunately, another (ex)subscriber to this newsletter does not. Take a look at this thread at my message boards to see what I mean.

You may thank this person for causing a little bit of extra effort on your part, and a bloody hassle for me. This person originally claimed that they never signed up for the newsletter. That is ridiculous, as the software that handles all subscriptions, unsubscriptions, and confirmations makes it virtually impossible for an address to be on the mailing list without a confirmed opt-in process.

Even if you were to sign up someone else, you'd never be able to get the request confirmed. I suppose someone could hack into my SQL server and manually insert someone's email address, but I'd sooner believe that Clinton didn't inhale and Al Gore really did invent the internet. As this person finally realized, he did in fact subscribe at some point ... and "forgot". Too bad he "remembered" only after emailing my web host with a complaint.

So, to deny anyone else the ability to claim that they didn't sign up for this newsletter, I am going to vet the subscriber list. By that I mean that as soon as this newsletter is done sending, I will delete the entire database. By the time you read this, your account will probably be deleted already.

If you want to continue to receive the Spyware Weekly newsletter, you will need to reenter your address in the subscription box at the upper right of this email and click the button, wait a few seconds for a confirmation email, then click a link in that email to confirm your subscription. If the sign-up box doesn't work in your email client, you can also sign up at http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/subscribe/. There is no unsubscribe necessary. If you don't want to receive this newsletter, don't sign up for it and you will never hear from me again. I apologize for this unneeded confirmation of your subscription, but ..... you can thank Mr. Spam Reporter for that.

I am doing it this way for two reasons. To clear out dead addresses, of which there are apparently quite a few. Also it is because a favored trick of spammers is to spam you, then provide a link to unsubscribe. Usually this leads to even more spam. That is not possible with what I am doing here. If you want to unsubscribe, delete this email and that's the end of it.

Please wait until at least 10 AM (Greenwich, England time zone) before signing up again. It takes about 30-40 mintues to send this thing out because of the sheer size of the mailing list (nearly 2,500 of you now!), so if you do it too soon, I might delete your account after you've signed up again. There is no real need to rush this. The next edition doesn't go out for another week or so anyway, mainly because I need to give the subject of next week's grilling some time to respond to my questions. In fact, I'd prefer if you waited a day or two before signing up again, as I shudder to think what 2,000+ people all signing up at once will do to the newsletter software. It was just last night that I managed to reinstall it.

Remember, please don't sign up an address which might send an auto response. I've reached the limits of my patience with those and any address which auto replies to an issue gets removed immediately.

While I'm on the subject of newsletters, I'd like to comment on some recent events. Several organizations who maintain blacklists of IP addresses allegedly used by spammers have made some real bonehead moves lately. For instance, all of Yahoo stores is now being blacklisted, as is all of Verio Networks. In the case of the latter, that includes the Lockergnome technology newsletters, of which hundreds of thousands of people are subscribers, including myself.

I happen to know Chris Pirillo (author of the Windows Daily) and Randy Nieland (author of the Tech Specialist), as I am a moderator in their IRC chat room. I can tell you with absolute confidence that the Lockergnome newsletters are not spam. Apparently this does not matter to the people who have placed all of Verio on their blacklist. Someone completely unrelated to Lockergnome is either being accused of being a spammer or of using some email form software that has long-since been hacked. I'm not sure which because the story varies according to who you hear it from. Quite possibly it is simply a case of someone who controls the blacklist having a grudge against someone at Verio. Such things have been known to happen. Who wants to bet that my own email server mysteriously lands on a blacklist after this issue?

If you subscribe to any of Lockergnome's newsletters and you haven't been receiving them the last couple of weeks, possibly the adminstrator of your email service uses one of these blacklists to block email. If so, then you need to discuss the situation with your provider and demand that they cease interfering with the delivery of your email. Sure, they own the server, but you pay for it's upkeep with your montly fees and they have no business filtering your email without your consent. The email filtered out should be available for you to check to guard against these sorts of errors. Take your money elsewhere if they refuse to listen to you and demand a refund for the previous week or two.

I'm arguing that point myself right now at DSLReports with one of the administrators of an ISP that uses these blacklists to interfere with their customer's email. Perhaps you should weigh in yourself about this. Be warned, it's a long and heated thread.

The anti-spam movement is getting out of control and is probably causing more harm than the spammers themselves. Lockergnome is now blacklisted. Fred Langa's Langalist was blacklisted last week and may still be. I was once blacklisted by SpamCop. Scot Finnie's newsletter sets off some sort of spam filter in Mailwasher.

I've also noticed this going through the bounce messages from last night:

Your message has been evaluated and determined to be Spam based on ACM's anti-spam policy.

For additional information see: http://www.acm.org/policy/anti-spam

If you believe this designation to be in error, please forward your original message to anti-spam@acm.org along with a brief explaination for case-by-case consideration.

I have no intention of following the instructions at the end there. It is not my responsibility to explain myself to someone foolish enough to set their filters to automatically bounce something "determined" to be spam without looking at it. Whoever signed up at that domain, someone is intercepting and discarding your email, and you should demand a refund of whatever fees you've paid your email provider.

If the extremists who seem to personify the anti-spam movement these days aren't checked by those with more common sense, eventually the only people able to send out email will be the spammers themselves, because they'll be the only ones with the know-how to get around all the filters and blacklists.

Update. Sep. 8, 2002

Since this issue is apparently going to be getting quite a few eyeballs, I thought I'd add this.

If you are the customer of an email service which filters your mail without giving you the option to turn off the filtering or to examine what is being filtered before it is deleted, inform the owner(s) of the email service that your monthly fees will go elsewhere if they don't give you the option. Go and check right now if they are discarding your email while it's fresh in your mind. You have probably already lost several emails without realizing it.

If you are the owner of a network, doublecheck that your administrators haven't started using some of these filters and/or blacklists, and if they are, make sure they know to store the filtered emails for a few days so people can check for bad filtering.

If you are the administrator, understand that even the owners of the blacklists and spam filtering software themselves say that you should not set it to automatically bounce mail from listed IP addresses. Also understand that the blacklists that you've been told are accurate are not. Not only are there countless IP addresses blacklisted by accident, the owners of these blacklists routinely list IP addresses which have nothing to do with spammers, as I've stated above.

If you are the owner of one of these blacklists, understand that your extremist actions are discrediting the entire anti-spam movement. Everywhere you look, you see people who are not spammers, who are actively anti-spam, who have nothing to do with harboring a spammer finding themselves on your lists and finding themselves insulted, libeled, and harassed when they want off. You are a much greater danger to the utility of email than any number of Ronnie Scelsons. Pretty soon, no one will be using your blacklists because everyone will realize that it's little more than your own personal agenda being listed, not the addresses of spammers.

In the emailed version of last night's issue, I made a minor flub. The permanent URL to that issue is actually http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newsletter/archives/september-2002/09062002.html.

The permanent URL to this issue is http://www.spywareinfoforum.info/newsletter/archives/september-2002/09072002.html.


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