Vigilante Spamming For Political Good?

from the ends-justify-the-means? dept

Last year, we pointed out that the various high profile attempts to build vigilante anti-spam systems that bombarded spammers back seemed like a bad idea. And, while some of the attempts have succeeded in annoying spammers, sooner or later they were going to fight back. Earlier this year, one of the most well-known names attempting such a vigilante system, Blue Security, was shut down after spammers started spamming all of its members and getting hit with a massive denial of service attack. Not much has been heard about the company since then, but it looks like they’ve now come back with a new plan (and a new name), though it really doesn’t sound much better. It’s once again based on the idea that if they do a bad thing, but for a good cause, it should be okay. This time, they’ve taken their vigilante spamming effort and set it to work for political campaigns. Basically, people will now be able to use it to flood petitions, online comment forms or other feedback mechanisms with canned messages of support or protest. This isn’t a particularly new idea. Plenty of “advocacy” groups have used similar ideas to flood policy makers over issues — especially when it comes to television indecency complaints — and it hasn’t done much good. All it does is inflate the views of a particular constituency way out of balance. While the policies that this reinvention of the company are looking to support seem like good ones, it’s worrisome that they’re planning to use such bad tactics to do so.

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Comments on “Vigilante Spamming For Political Good?”

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claire rand says:

fight back

I still like the idea Paul Graham had of ‘filters that fight back’

essentially you visit the links in the spam, don’t bother looking at it, let a script do it (using some spare bandwidth), do this several times, making sure to grab all the images. and hammer the servers the spam points to.

small effect and the people doing it are the ones the spammer sent the rubbish to in the first place.

not perfect but has a potetic justic to it

Rich Kulawiec says:

Still spammy after all these years (well, okay, mo

It’s not surprising that they’re spamming; *that’s what they do*.

And *why* they’re doing it, or *what* they’re putting in it,
are both irrelevant. The canonical definition of spam (via
SMTP) is “unsolicited bulk email”, and it deliberately does
not address motivation, purpose, content or any number of
other attributes that are often used in feeble attempts to
“justify” spam.

The only part of this that I find mildly surprising/depressing/
disappointing is how many ignorant newbies think it’s a good
idea to try “fighting back” against spammers. Apparently both
the lessons of history as well a sober assessment of the enemy
escape them.

(Briefly, to address both of those points: the Internet’s own
history demonstrates Salvor Hardin’s maxim from the first
of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy: “It’s a poor atom blaster
that won’t point both ways.” Automated “revenge attack”
mechanisms are invariably retargeted — often in quite
ingenious ways. The inevitable result is misdirected damage.
As to the enemy’s resources, spammers already control
an estimated 10e9 hijacked systems worldwide, an unknown
number of hijacked ASNs, various networks, possibly a
domain registrar or two, and assorted other goodies. Trying
to inflict network damage on them is like trying to drown
someone who owns the ocean.)

Probably the best move at this point is to permanently
blacklist Blue Security’s domains and null-route their
network(s), rather than wait to see what their next
extremely stupid, highly abusive trick might be.

Jeff says:

Way to spread the FUD!

Come the heck on.

“All it does is inflate the views of a particular constituency way out of balance. While the policies that this reinvention of the company are looking to support seem like good ones, it’s worrisome that they’re planning to use such bad tactics to do so.”

Quit being so worrisome and get to a REAL tech topic. Ask ANYONE elected to congress. They’ll tell you they get tons of these mass emails every day on every side of every political issue, and they have for years.

There’s no “constituency way out of balance”. As corrupt as our page-sodomizing, lobbyist loving, pork-producing, perk-partaking congresspeople are, they’re still astute enough to realize that the freaks bombing them with spam do NOT represent their constituents but losers in radical fringe groups with too much tech time on their hands.

Except for Ted Stevens. He’s too stupid to understand any of it, and would regularly fall for the latest daily phishing scam — except he’s convinced his pneuma-mail is still clogged in the Internet Tubes from all the video porn that is being downloaded… probably by congress members trying to get a date with a page.

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