50 ways to please your lover, and other spam tricks, continue

Viagra was the was the most common subject for spam in 2003, according to antispam company Commtouch Inc. of Mountain, View, Calif., and spammers came up with more than 50 ways to sneak the little blue pill past antispam filters.

Variations that incorporated figures and punctuation ranged from vi@gra through v.i.a.g.r.a to \/iagra. This is the kind of trickery that the Can-Spam legislation that went into effect yesterday was supposed to stop, but so far it appears to have had little impact, said Avner Amram, executive vice president of Commtouch.

'Spammers did not stop using their regular tricks,' said Amram. The law also requires e-mail advertisers to identify messages as advertisements and to include valid postal addresses. 'Very few are doing it,' Amram. 'Almost none.'

The Can-Spam law makes it illegal to send unidentified, misidentified or misleading e-mail advertisements and provides civil and criminal penalties for spammers.

Commtouch analyses e-mail traffic submitted by service providers to identify spam patterns that can be used to block unsolicited e-mail. Amram said the company usually sees up to 400,000 spam outbreaks each day. During the month of December, daily outbreaks increased by 33 percent, he said. This dropped by about 10 percent on Christmas day, and dipped again by 20 percent on New Year's day.

'Even spammers take a holiday,' Amram said.

It is too early to say whether the New Year's day dip represents the impact of the Can-Spam law, he said. 'It could just be the end of the shopping season.'

Despite the Jan. 1 slow-down, overall spam traffic was still higher Wednesday than a month before, and all of the old tricks were being used.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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