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Anti-Spam Newsletter Released

September 28th, 2007

John Graham-Cumming, developer of the famous anti-spam tool POPFile and founder of the software company Electric Cloud, Inc., has released the latest edition of his newsletter. It is normally published twice per month and contains informative news items and technical descriptions about the latest spamming techniques and the methods that are being employed to combat them. If you subscribe to the newsletter from the link at jgc.org, you can access the archived issues from previous months. This is the 62nd edition.


Regular readers will know that I’ve been predicting the death of the MIT Spam Conference for some time. How wrong I was. The MIT Spam Conference is back and has been expanded to two days (March 27 and 28, 2008).

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2008, but the conference is operating an unusual sliding submissions process. You are invited to submit any time from now until the deadline and you’ll get a yes/no answer within two weeks.

Details are here: http://spamconference.org/

Last week I spent a day at the Virus Bulletin 2007 conference in Vienna giving a talk about The Spammers’ Compendium (see www.jgc.org for slides).

My overall impression was that the spam talks were weak. Of all the talks only one made me go ‘a ha!’: Vipul Sharma’s talk:

* Continual feature selection: a cost effective method for enhancing the capabilities of enterprise spam solutions

Vipul Sharma, John Gardiner Myers, Steve Lewis, Proofpoint
http://www.virusbtn.com/conference/vb2007/
abstracts/SharmaMyersLewis.xml

One innovation this year was the inclusion of 20 minute ‘last minute’ talks (which, frankly, is a bit like the entire MIT Spam Conference style). This was a good idea and I hope that part expands into more interesting up to date information (since the VB printing deadline means that most papers are written months in advance).

I’ve updated the calendar with one new conference: Usenix LISA. I actually talked at LISA twice about spam topics (my talks are available on www.jgc.org). If you are going then check out:

* Using Throttling and Traffic Shaping to Combat Botnet Spam Ken Simpson, Founder and CEO, MailChannels

* Homeless Vikings: BGP Prefix Hijacking and the Spam Wars David Josephsen, Senior Systems Engineer, DBG, Inc.

The second talk looks really interesting.

William Brown points out that sometimes spammer obfuscations are just too hard to read:

Spammers are notorious for exploiting the human mind’s desire to see what it wants to, using ! or | for L or I, and skipping over the occasional misspelling, etc., but this may be pushing that too far…

>> Ti+ck eeer F!D:E(G
>> Close at 0.04
>> Ta rg-et 0.12

To me that’s an indication that we are hurting them.

Many people pointed me to the news that Pfizer’s computers were turned into zombies sending out Viagra spam:
http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2007/09/pfizerspam

And others mentioned the long New Yorker piece on spam that’s a good introduction for beginners:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/08/06
/070806fa_fact_specter

Michael Shannon points me to an article that claims that botnets are getting smaller:
http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/news/2199688/botnets-getting-smaller

I’d like to hear from you, if there’s something you think should be included in the newsletter, or just have an opinion, drop me a line at antispam(at)jgc.org.

Free and Open Source Anti-spam Software News

This section lists the latest news on versions and releases of Free and Open Source Anti-spam tools. If you have a tool that you think should be listed here then email antispam(at)jgc.org and I’ll think about including it.

– Nothing major to report

Calendar

Usenix LISA 2007 November 11-16, 2007
http://www.usenix.org/events/lisa07/

TREC 2007 (Gaithersburg, MD) November 6-9, 2007
http://trec.nist.gov/

MIT Spam Conference (Cambridge, MA) March 27-28, 2008
http://spamconference.org/

VB 2008 (Ottawa, ON) October 1-3, 2008
http://www.virusbtn.com/conference/vb2008/index

About the author

John Graham-Cumming is the author of the popular and award-winning email classification and spam fighting tool POPFile and a frequent writer and speaker on spam and anti-spam topics. He’s also Founder (at large) at Electric Cloud, Inc., a Mountain View, California start-up specializing in distributing and speeding up software builds.

He makes a living as a consultant writing software, white papers, magazine articles, doing web casts and conference presentations. He also sells anti-spam and email sorting software called polymail.

More about John can be found at http://www.jgc.org/. More on polymail can be found at http://www.extravalent.com/.



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