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What if your email address could demand respect?

Spam with no purpose

I'm asked this question often so I thought it deserved its own post:

What is the purpose of spam that is not attempting to sell you anything or if it has no virus or spyware attached?

Well, the goal of these messages (often containing typical spam plus perfectly legitimate text - often from a popular book or journal) is to confuse or even "un-train" your spam filter. What do I mean?

Well, let's assume some spam, which includes a paragraph from the front page of todays New York Times, makes it past your filter - In this case the message is seen as spam by the recipient (which it is) and (if given the ability) is usually "marked as spam" by the user. So, what the user has done here is taught the filter that all the words from the paragraph in the New York Times should be considered spam in the future.

This is called Filter Poisoning and the goal is to simply confuse spam filters. There are two outcomes and either is desirable by the spammer. Possible outcomes - When the Spam Filter starts grabbing more desirable messages this is known as increased False Positives. If this occurs the user becomes frustrated and either 1) loosens their spam filter settings which will allow more spam through or 2) is forced to check their Spam Folder more often for missed messages. In either case the spammer has achieved their goal - which is to get you to waste your valuable time "looking" at their messages.