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Is the net about to choke to death?
The Sunday Times ^ | May 4, 2003 | Martin Wroe

Posted on 05/03/2003 4:19:10 PM PDT by MadIvan

The uninvited guest on the web is taking over. If we want to continue e-mailing and surfing, spam must be stopped, says Martin Wroe

Sometime in the next six weeks the internet will pass a milestone. In about the middle of July the number of e-mails we don’t want to receive will overtake the number we do. Yes, spam is on course to conquer the web. For Adrian Pearson, an independent film producer based in London, the milestone is already past. Each day he gets more offers of cheap loans, miracle diets and penile enhancement than work-related messages. “It takes up an inordinate amount of time just clearing them out,” he laments. “Sometimes I wonder if I could do without e-mail. But these days it would be like doing without the phone; not possible.”

Because of the adult nature of much spam, he thinks twice about his two young children using the family computer. “Some of the material is sickening. I want to call the police to tell them my home is being violated, but what can I do?” What can anyone do? Research from the anti-spam specialist Brightmail last week found that pornographic spam alone has risen by 400% in the past year. As our inboxes darken with unsolicited mail, some experts believe the sheer volume of spam could bring the net to a halt.

Office workers waste hours deleting messages while businesses hire experts to fumigate polluted networks. The cost to the global economy is estimated at $9 billion (about £5.5 billion) a year.

And unwanted e-mail turns people off the virtual life. When my 10-year-old daughter opened a Hotmail account last week, she wrote to a friend in New Zealand. Next day came the reply — along with five other e-mails offering assorted anatomical enhancements.

“Spam is rapidly undermining confidence in the internet,” explains John Carr of the Children’s Charities Coalition for Internet Safety. “It confirms people’s view that the net is all a bit seedy.”

Last week three big internet service providers (ISPs) — America Online, Microsoft and Yahoo — agreed to fight this virtual epidemic. At the same time, Virginia, home to some of the world’s biggest internet companies, introduced legislation that could put spammers in jail for five years.

But while the ISPs have started to fight back, professional spammers are notoriously hard to track down. Some believe that the billions of spam e-mails emanate from just 150 shadowy companies, programming computers to randomly generate names and fire off mail by the million, 24 hours a day.

According to Derek Wyatt, the Labour MP who chairs the all-party internet group, the UK is only now waking up to the threat. Wyatt claims it was only after he forwarded pornographic mail received at his Commons e-mail account to the Speaker that officials took notice. They introduced a filtering system, but that is now failing.

“Spammers are getting more and more sophisticated,” he says. “The subject lines no longer include words like ‘sex’. Instead they tell you to have a nice day — but the content turns out to be porn.”

Later this month, Wyatt’s group hosts the first UK spam summit, which will be addressed by Stephen Timms, the minister for e-commerce, and in the next few days Home Office advice on unsolicited commercial e-mail will be published.

The net, says Wyatt, is in its “spotty, adolescent phase” and needs to grow up — in particular it needs a global governing body to monitor and legislate for acceptable online practice. An internet charter could threaten ISPs with fines or licence withdrawal if their customers suffer spam abuse. “If they see regulation coming, the ISPs will throw some of their money at it and fix the problem.”

The ISPs claim it is unfair to blame the virtual “postman”. But if the real postman delivered 30 adult magazines and 17 diet-while-you-sleep offers along with the gas bill nobody would let the Post Office get away with telling customers to get a more intelligent letter box.

At present, however, protection from spam is largely down to the humble computer user. Our irritation at this desktop interference is matched only by our confusion at how these dubious people get hold of our e-mail addresses. In fact, very often it is our fault.

An experiment at the American Centre for Democracy and Technology last year found that e-mail addresses posted on websites attracted the most spam. Six decoy e-mail addresses attracted 8,500 spam messages in six months, whereas e-mail addresses not made public attracted very few.

Spammers use “harvesting” software to record addresses placed on websites, in chat rooms for example, and then start mailing them and selling them on to others.

One simple way around this, when posting your address on a website, is to replace the characters in your e-mail address with deceptive equivalents — sheila at britain dot com instead of sheila@britain.com. Or set up another e-mail address for public posting only.

The simplest advice of all is to never reply to the offer to be “unsubscribed” from an unsolicited e-mail. A reply tells the spammer your e-mail address is live and ideal to spam again.

The Sunday Times Doors section recently started a campaign against spam, encouraging MPs, government, software makers and ISPs to work together to improve anti-spam software and prosecute those responsible. It also called for an independent watchdog.

From October, Britain is set to comply with a European Union directive to make unsolicited e-mail illegal across member states. But most spam originates outside Europe and its pedlars will not be trembling at the thought of new laws.

The spammers are always going to be more net savvy than most of us and in the end, says John Carr, it will not be legislation or education that defeats them.

“The solution will have to be a technological one, and that means the ISPs are going to have to invest. If they don’t, they will pay a hefty price because people will just turn away altogether.”


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; US: District of Columbia; US: Virginia; United Kingdom
KEYWORDS: choke; internet; spam; thechildren
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I don't like spam.

Regards, Ivan


1 posted on 05/03/2003 4:19:10 PM PDT by MadIvan
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To: alnick; knews_hound; faithincowboys; hillary's_fat_a**; redbaiter; MizSterious; Krodg; ...
Bump!
2 posted on 05/03/2003 4:19:23 PM PDT by MadIvan
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To: MadIvan
I'll have to check my mailblocks.com service in a few months and see if my Hotmail account is clean. It usually gets loaded with spam like you wouldn't believe even though the funny thing is I've never used it to send messages let alone posted my Hotmail address anywhere on the Net.
3 posted on 05/03/2003 4:22:55 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: MadIvan
Well, I couldn't agree more that something needs to be done. A completely free internet was a nice idea, but spam, especially pornographic spam, needs to be controlled.
4 posted on 05/03/2003 4:23:42 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: MadIvan
But while the ISPs have started to fight back, professional spammers are notoriously hard to track down. Some believe that the billions of spam e-mails emanate from just 150 shadowy companies, programming computers to randomly generate names and fire off mail by the million, 24 hours a day.

  I've heard this line before, linked to how difficult these people are to trace, and I've never quite understood it. Some one has to hire these companies to fire off the spam in the first place. Even if, somehow, only those who want to issue spam can find these people, we know who is hiring them, because they have their identity on the spam mails. Can't we get the contact information from those companies?

  I just don't see why finding these spammers should be so difficult, I suppose.

Drew Garrett

5 posted on 05/03/2003 4:24:38 PM PDT by agarrett
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To: goldstategop
I have an AOL address that I've never used, and a Hotmail address that I've never used, and they both fill up with SPAM. And both are using the heaviest filters short of rejecting all mail entirely.
6 posted on 05/03/2003 4:24:52 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: MadIvan
36 spam mails just today. I went through and erased every funny sounding cookie.
7 posted on 05/03/2003 4:25:15 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: Cicero
Especially the pornography and manhood enhancement pitches. What on earth are those folks thinking? Yeah they either don't have kids or they don't give a damn about the damage they're inflicting upon families with children.
8 posted on 05/03/2003 4:25:47 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: MadIvan
Spam should be made illegal. The advertisers First Amendment rights end somewhere outside of my internet mailbox.
9 posted on 05/03/2003 4:25:52 PM PDT by Dog Gone
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To: Cicero
Hmmm.... why someone would send a ton of ads to an address that never gets used, I can't figure out.
10 posted on 05/03/2003 4:26:58 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: MadIvan
Spammers must die. I think they should be tied to a mail box at the bottom of a cliff and then have 5 tractor trailer loads of bulk mail dumped on them from 500 feet.
11 posted on 05/03/2003 4:29:13 PM PDT by agitator (Ok, mic check...line one...)
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To: MadIvan
“It takes up an inordinate amount of time just clearing them out,” he laments.

Whiner. I can get rid of 20 spam emails in 30 seconds. Its very easy to tell by the subject and author.

12 posted on 05/03/2003 4:31:48 PM PDT by toast
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To: Dog Gone
My view is UNSOLICITED commercial e-mail is an invasion of privacy. If you want to sign up to be informed by a particular company once in awhile of new products you might interested in buying, that's one thing. Its an entirely different matter to be flooded with advertisements for things you don't want, aren't interested in buying and which you get irrespective of your feelings about it. I mean the spammers worst offense isn't that they gunk up the Internet, which by itself is bad enough, its their telling us we should have no control over what ends up in our in-boxes. I wish we could put them out of business for good by giving them a taste of what we get on the receiving end here every day.
13 posted on 05/03/2003 4:32:38 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: MadIvan
Bill Gates had a suggestion in his book, The Road Ahead: that we charge people for the privilege of e-mailing us. Basically, if someone wanted to send you e-mail, they would have to pay about a dime to you before your account would accept it. Of course, the money transfers would have to be done automatically, from ISP to ISP, but technologically speaking, it could be done.

The basic idea is, a dime wouldn't stop your friends and family from sending you e-mail. But it would stop Mister Penile Enlargement from sending out ten million e-mails when he expects to get back only ten replies. That works when the e-mails are free, but when they cost $1 million and he only stands to make $100, he'll think again about darkening your virtual doorstep.

14 posted on 05/03/2003 4:33:48 PM PDT by JoeSchem (Okay, now it works: http:geocities.com/engineerzero)
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To: toast
Not if they disguise their subject line so you still have to open it up to make sure you aren't deleting a legitimate message. They are the scum of the Internet.
15 posted on 05/03/2003 4:34:05 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: toast
If you got 200 or 2000 or more, every day, mixed up with your business email, you might whine too.

I don't get any spam in my current email address. It's an .edu, and maybe they have an effective filter.
16 posted on 05/03/2003 4:38:27 PM PDT by ChemistCat (My new bumper sticker: MY OTHER DRIVER IS A ROCKET SCIENTIST)
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Comment #17 Removed by Moderator

To: KBtry4-11
I just discovered that a friend's email sent me a worm. Now I'm getting bogus emails "from" him that contain attachments. Of course, I won't open the attachments, but it really pisses me off.
18 posted on 05/03/2003 4:45:33 PM PDT by EggsAckley ( Midnight at the Oasis)
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To: toast
Whiner. I can get rid of 20 spam emails in 30 seconds. Its very easy to tell by the subject and author.

Cool. Post your e-mail address here and you will get a chance to go for a personal best.

19 posted on 05/03/2003 4:45:44 PM PDT by Blue Screen of Death
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To: goldstategop
Quite frequently, they use just the first name of the sender, ie, Martha, or John... not listing the email address, outright. If you know a Martha or John, you are tempted to open it, thinking your friend sent you something.
20 posted on 05/03/2003 4:49:56 PM PDT by Pan_Yans Wife (Lurking since 2000.)
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To: Pan_Yans Wife
That's true. Its the trickery that makes people even more furious than the fact they received spam.
21 posted on 05/03/2003 4:51:09 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Grampa Dave
The spam filter at my secondary ISP experienced a glitch this past Thursday. I received 424 pieces of spam at once. Luckily, my mail client polls that mail server via my primary cable connection, else I would probably have been downloading spam for hours.
22 posted on 05/03/2003 4:52:41 PM PDT by InfraRed
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To: MadIvan
My ISP filters all e-mails and holds all "span" for a yes-or-no by me. So far I only delete about five per week, but my neighbor deletes hundreds per day. I attribute the difference to the fact that I never visit porno sites and he does.
23 posted on 05/03/2003 4:57:27 PM PDT by snopercod
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To: MadIvan
What bugs me more than E-Mail Spam is the pop ups and ads.

Drudge is using something called ads.doubleclick in his HTML that just hangs my computer because it is so slow. Other sites like Intellicast (weather) are using it too.

24 posted on 05/03/2003 4:58:00 PM PDT by Mike Darancette (Soddom has left the bunker.)
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To: Mike Darancette
In the new AOL 8.0 Plus there is a fix to shut them off. If you have another ISP and are still getting them, just shut off your Messenger service. You can still get legitimate IMs and all you won't see are pop up ads any more. Hope this helps.
25 posted on 05/03/2003 5:01:50 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: MadIvan
The solution will have to be a technological one,

Not necessarily. Why is spam so abundant? Because it costs almost nothing to send. What if, rather than imposing all kinds of laws, we simply imposed a postage fee on e-mail? For example, it would cost $.05 to send a message and nothing to receive it. How many e-mails does the average person send in a week? I'm probably not average, because I don't send a lot of e-mail, but I'll bet that few people send more than 10 e-mails per day. The ISP could allow each user to send mail at no charge to a user supplied list of people. This would lower the cost considerably. It would be easy to add names to the list. If the user begins to send mail to an unfamiliar address, the program could ask him if he wants to add the address to his list of free addresses, and even if he never plans to write them again, he could add it. There would also have to be safeguards to prevent spammers from illegally using someone else's account to send spam.

26 posted on 05/03/2003 5:05:47 PM PDT by giotto
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To: MadIvan

I AM SICK OF SPAM AND SPAM POP-UPS!!!

I feel better,thanks.

27 posted on 05/03/2003 5:08:02 PM PDT by TaRaRaBoomDeAyGoreLostToday!
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To: giotto
Never reveal your passwords to ANY ONE online. 'Nuff said. On AOL, there are counterfeit sites that look enough like official AOL sites that exist for the purpose of obtaining your password. Don't go there and give them the keys to your online accounts.
28 posted on 05/03/2003 5:08:19 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Mike Darancette
Go to Drudgereport and then click on View in your IE menu (assuming that you're using IE6) and then select Privacy Report. You will see a list of cookies that Drudge uses. Right click on each one and select "always reject cookies from this site."

That should end Drudge's annoying popup ads for you.

29 posted on 05/03/2003 5:13:50 PM PDT by alnick ("Never have so many been so wrong about so much." - Rummy)
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To: alnick
BTTTTTT
30 posted on 05/03/2003 5:18:57 PM PDT by Bradís Gramma
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To: MadIvan

31 posted on 05/03/2003 5:21:13 PM PDT by AgThorn (Continue to pray for our Troops!!)
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To: MadIvan
It's not bad with eggs ...

32 posted on 05/03/2003 5:23:12 PM PDT by AgThorn (Continue to pray for our Troops!!)
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To: MadIvan
As a woman, I must ask the question...is penile enhancement THAT big of a business? (Excuse the pun). I get like at least three offers a day.
33 posted on 05/03/2003 5:27:44 PM PDT by Hildy
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To: Hildy
Being a woman the question is what use it would have to you considering your anatomy? I'd hate to think the spammers have already done market research into the possibilities of conquering the sex change market. EWWWWWWWWWW
34 posted on 05/03/2003 5:29:16 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: agarrett
I've heard this line before, linked to how difficult these people are to trace, and I've never quite understood it. Some one has to hire these companies to fire off the spam in the first place.

Not exactly. I used to host web sites on a server that I built. I located the server in Tulsa, at my friend's shop. I administered and installed IMAIL and Exchange Server 2000 to satisfy the email requirements of customers. Both email systems were hi-jacked. Script kiddies are relentless. It became impossible to keep up with the software patches, so I gave up. There are alot of servers out there that didn't give up. Those servers are still being hi-jacked.

35 posted on 05/03/2003 5:30:45 PM PDT by gcraig
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To: MadIvan
When I click on view and privacy report when I am viewing this thread I get one that says freerepublic but I also get four more. For example on is arobase.org/spam

what does that mean?

36 posted on 05/03/2003 5:30:54 PM PDT by mrfixit514
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To: gcraig
Part of the spammers' strategy to take over the Net is to hijack legitimate servers to make sure their malware and spyware gets through. The joke has it if every one stopped coming online tomorrow, cyberspace would filled with nothing but spam.
37 posted on 05/03/2003 5:34:22 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: MadIvan
The net, says Wyatt, is in its “spotty, adolescent phase” and needs to grow up — in particular it needs a global governing body to monitor and legislate for acceptable online practice.

But, of course -- and with Hillary Clinton in charge. Sorry, this cure is worse than the disease.

America's Fifth Column ... watch Steve Emerson/PBS documentary JIHAD! In America
Download 8Mb File Here (Requires RealPlayer)

Who is Steve Emerson?

38 posted on 05/03/2003 5:34:31 PM PDT by JCG
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To: goldstategop
Okay. The problem is that even the sysadmins that patch their systems to keep up with the latest updates from the vendors get hi-jacked.
39 posted on 05/03/2003 5:37:55 PM PDT by gcraig
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To: giotto
What if, rather than imposing all kinds of laws, we simply imposed a postage fee on e-mail?

Because it isn't really "simple." Who collects this? How does any server transporting it know the postage has been paid? Remember, you're not dealing with honest people here. These aren't guys with Earthlink accounts. Most of 'em aren't even in the U.S.

40 posted on 05/03/2003 5:41:17 PM PDT by Nick Danger (The liberals are slaughtering themselves at the gates of the newsroom)
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To: Nick Danger
They get free accounts, send out a flood of spam and dump em before they're caught. Its a game of cat and mouse between the ISPs and the spammers.
41 posted on 05/03/2003 5:42:35 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: mrfixit514
I get those too. They are .jpg and .gif, so they are images.
42 posted on 05/03/2003 5:42:48 PM PDT by alnick ("Never have so many been so wrong about so much." - Rummy)
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To: MadIvan
The 'Net won't choke. There is adequate bandwidth now, and ample infrastructure which will be sufficient to address future needs.

One of the primary metrics that interactive customers use to measure their Internet experience is response time. If web pages load slow, customers will complain.

The problem is that for many users, all traffic to/from most ISPs was/still is treated the same. Web-browsing, Voice/IP, H.323 (Video/IP), etc. will show the adverse effects of response time degradation more so than e-mail.

More and more ISP's and larger users of the Internet will be using traffic-shaping, and other technologies and standards to address Internet response time issues. The issue of spam is different - it can be best be addresed by content filtering technologies and black-holing.

43 posted on 05/03/2003 5:45:32 PM PDT by Fury
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To: InfraRed
I use MSN, and their new system throws out a lot of junk automatically. Some still sneaks in, and even the caught junk has to be deleted.

424 pieces of spam is out rageous.
44 posted on 05/03/2003 5:45:35 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: MadIvan
I have probably gotten a *total* 5 or 6 unsolicited emails in my whole life. I have signed up for newsletters, and when I tired of them, unregistered, and they stopped.

I am baffled because I don't hide my email address either.

I enroll or register at whatever sites I choose, using some discretion, read the enrollment questions and answer "no" to offers to send me email, and so far they don't. I still only have and use only one email address, and have used it a few years now.

But it isn't a freebie address, but one provided by my cable ISP. Is that really the only difference between me and a victim? - I don't get why people can't avoid spam without fancy filter programs. I have none.
45 posted on 05/03/2003 5:46:55 PM PDT by HairOfTheDog (It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.)
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To: Grampa Dave
If only you could delete it all in one click. <sigh
46 posted on 05/03/2003 5:47:23 PM PDT by goldstategop ( In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Cicero
Are your usernames words that are found in the dictionary? I suspect spammers have software to automatically send to thousands of common usernames at the large e-mail providers (kind of like brute-force password-cracking programs which use dictionaries).

I never get spam in my other webmail accounts, but my usernames wouldn't show up in a dictionary.

47 posted on 05/03/2003 5:49:35 PM PDT by The Hon. Galahad Threepwood
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To: goldstategop
Actually with the New MSN after I click each regular mail and spam mail to be deleted, one click will do 1 to 50 or more.
48 posted on 05/03/2003 5:52:36 PM PDT by Grampa Dave (Being a Monthly Donor to Free Republic is the Right Thing to do!)
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To: mrfixit514
Those are the inline images which have been posted to the thread.
49 posted on 05/03/2003 5:52:46 PM PDT by The Hon. Galahad Threepwood
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To: MadIvan

50 posted on 05/03/2003 5:53:36 PM PDT by Lockbar
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