Reply-All: Lumber Cartel (TINLC) Edition

Back in the day, a spammer who found himself on the wrong side of an e-mail block list publicly asserted in all seriousness that anti-spam activities are funded in secret by a shadowy cartel of lumber producers who were seeing their margins from paper production erode as marketers made the shift from postal junk mail to e-mail. It became a sort of running joke in the usenet newsgroup news.admin.net-abuse.email. One of the straw arguments frequently mounted by spammers to justify their business model was the environmental friendliness of e-mail. We now have a credible estimate of the carbon foot print of e-mail: about 135kg per user, annually – or the equivalent of a 200-mile drive in a car. Turns out e-mail isn’t all that green.

Facebook this week announced three more spam-related lawsuits, and among the defendants they’ve named is a guy named Steven Richter. A bunch of blogs and media outlets assumed this is the same Steve Richter, who is the father of spammer Scott Richter and president of his son’s company Media Breakaway, LLC. The company was quick to respond with a press release, pointing out that the named defendant is actually a different Steve Richter.

ISPs who use SORBS blocklist data for e-mail filtering woke up one morning two weeks ago to discover that they were unintentionally blocking mail from great swathes of the Intarwebs, including Yahoo!, Apple, and Google Groups. SORBS operator Michelle Sullivan at first claimed they were the target of a massive DDOS attack, but later disclosed that they had inadvertently placed a bunch of historical block list entries in their current listings database during a server migration. Oy.

Just in time for Halloween, notorious spammer (and unintentional comedian) Bill Waggoner has risen from the grave with the launch of yourinternetbodyguard.com (you may want to mute audio before you click through). His new site solicits contributions to be used (somehow) against Steve Linford of Spamhaus and SpamCop founder Julian Haight (never mind that Haight hasn’t had a thing to do with SpamCop for years).

Reply-All: Minty Pheonix Edition

Reply-All: The Short-Week-Following-the-Long-Weekend-Edition Edition

A blogger for computer and Internet security giant Sophos sounded the red alert Tuesday, announcing that a “primary WHOIS registry” (huh?) had been hacked, and records of  sites belonging to Microsoft and Google had been vandalized.  Indeed, a WHOIS search on a UNIX box returned some uninteresting DNS performance art. The author of the blog post didn’t realize he was using, essentially, a modified substring search, so he was seeing a variety of  inexact matches containing records from a mess of DNS servers – all unrelated to the companies in question. The original post was replaced with an apology and redaction within a few hours, but not before a standard complement of rotten tomatoes had been tossed in their general direction.

Marketing industry reporter extrordinaire Ken Magill serves up another scoop: after fewer than five days in the saddle, the new CEO of Lyris is reportedly ready to lay off about 15% of it’s work force (somewhere between 40 and 45 jobs). The downsizing is apparently part of a shift in corporate strategy away from small business senders in favor of larger companies that send in higher volumes. Some within the company are reportedly wondering (out loud, to Magill) whether the job slashing is part of a move to make the company appear more attractive to a prospective buyer.

Microsoft cut the legs out from under the Waledac spam ‘botnet by seizing 276 domains used for command and control. Microsoft filed a suit against Waledac operators, in which it sought an award of the c&c domains. The botnet operators have 14 days to appeal the default judgment (thereby revealing their identities), which no one really expects they’ll do.  Unlike previous attempts at take-downs, it looks like this one is sticking.

“Houston, we have a problem … it’s called ‘spam’,” tweeted NASA’s Lunar Science Institute, as the “here you have”/VBMania e-mail trojan spread like wildfire across the Intarwebs Thursday, choking and overwhelming e-mail servers and stealing user passwords as it went. Various media outlets reported that the worm has hit NASA, Google, Coca Cola, Comcast, and ABC/Disney, and the Department of Homeland Security.

And to kick your weekend off with a smile, here’s a chuckle from cartoonist Brad Colbow about opting out of retail e-mail campaigns. Remind you of any clients you know?

Reply-All: Three Day Weekend Edition

  • From all the coverage of Gmail Priority Inbox, you’d think nothing else happened in the e-mail deliverability world this week. Well, actually, not much else did, but we’ll get to that later.
  • MSN/Live/Hotmail, hot on the heels of their own re-tooling of “hands free” inbox management
    tools, announces (or re-announces) that they, too, are using engagement metrics to make delivery decisions – and furthermore, user level preferences will override server-level filtering policies. Proof that one man’s trash may truly be another’s treasure.
  • Not everyone is happy about these developments: E-mail marketing agency CEO and “thought leader” Dela Quist asserts in a rambling screed that “interfering with someone’s email [sic] infringes on their rights”, and doing so invites a class action suit. It’s plain to me (and others, judging from the comments on the piece) that he’s actually arguing for senders’ right of unfettered access to their recipients’ inboxes. No such right exists, of course: courts in the US have considered and rejected the notion on at least two occasions – once as early as 1996 (AOL v. Cyberpromo). And of course, there’s both the CDA and CAN SPAM, both of which hold ISPs harmless for filtering mail.

Reply-All: The Week That Was

Welcome to the first installment of Reply-All, a semi-regular/whenever-I-feel-like-it look back at the week in Deliverability:

Hope to see you all here next week!