Wipe out 'accidental' spamming

Those who unwittingly or unknowingly contribute to the spam problem could be a worse threat than those who willfully do so.

Vivian Yeo
commentary About two months ago I was a victim of a spammed mailing list that was circulated with a virus attached.

Not that there was anything unusual about getting messages from yet another spammer, but it was followed by hundreds of e-mail over a span of 60 hours from, get this, those who were spammed.

It was hard to ignore the messages when a new one would arrive in my inbox almost every other minute, especially during the initial 24 hours.

Most of the recipients, I dare say, opened at least one of the e-mail messages to get an idea of why their inboxes were suddenly flooded. After all, it wasn't every day that you receive tons of mail bearing similar subject headers.

But, to hit 'Reply' is a totally different matter.

The deluge of e-mail messages from people all over the world, even in developed countries such as Canada, Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom, was alarming. Aren't most tech-savvy users by now ingrained with the basic e-mail rules like, "Don't reply to spam mailing lists"?

Sure, some may not have realized that it was a mailing list they were replying to; perhaps they were genuinely concerned that they had been falsely accused of having sent a virus. But the e-mail address, which did not sound like any respectable individual but a golf resort, would have been a dead giveaway!

To add to the whole mess, numerous e-mail messages pointing out the obvious--telling people to ignore the e-mail and get on with their life--were sent by those clearly incensed with just-as-clueless users who clicked the reply button, asking to be taken off the mailing list. As the level of frustration peaked, so did the size of font type which grew larger and the use uppercase letters became more frequent.

It did not take long for other spammers to surface. They were subtle, but nonetheless still plugging their Internet services by leaving a host of links after their e-mail trail.

One e-mail message that really got me chuckling was written by a man, who incidentally sent at least six e-mail messages to those trapped in the mailing list. He cursed: "May the fleas off a thousand camels infest your armpits wherever you are..." The rest of his note is too explicit to be included here, but you get the message.

On a more serious note, we are living in a world that's constantly in battle with spam. Neighboring countries such as China, undisputedly one of the top producers--and a growing one at that--of spam worldwide, may have announced a tougher stance against spam, but the problem is far from being resolved. It is also a fact that spam is making its way into mobile phones and instant messaging.

The e-mail flood finally stopped after nearly three days, but I suspect it wasn't a case of people finally 'coming to their senses'.

Some may have learnt their lesson from this episode, but many more around the world need to be on their guard and practise some self-discipline--lest the spammed turn spammers.

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