Adam Auden (aca) wrote,
Adam Auden

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Fight Spam with Spam?

Got this, unsolicited, in my inbox this morning:

From: SPAMIS: <>
Reply-To: "SPAMIS:" <>
Date: Jul 7, 2005 9:13 PM
Subject: BREAKING NEWS: Microsoft Caught Sending Illegal Spam
Reply | Reply to all | Forward | Print | Add sender to Contacts list | Trash this message | Report phishing | Show original
..You are receiving this email notification because...



OUR MISSION: Worldwide Boycott of MICROSOFT Software / Hardware / Service
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT: "Don't Support Illegal Spam, Don't Buy Microsoft Products"

OUR GOAL: 100 Billion Views / 99.9% Internet Saturation / 178 Parts (2005-2007)

[SPAMIS Foundation: Strategic Partnership Against Microsoft Illegal Spam]

[Part 39 of 178]
----- ---- --- -- - - -


Junk mail from MS (Microsoft): Whose spam is it anyway?
by Graham Lea / The Register Technology News

Special report "Spammers are thieves... They're hijacking your
system to deliver their unrequested, unwanted advertising,"
says a new Microsoft web site paper by R'ykandar Korra'ti.

But Microsoft is on shaky ground when it comes to spam - in
recent newsgroup posting the company's own abuse manager Mike
Lyman has effectively been conceding that Microsoft sends out
unwelcome, unsolicited mail, and that company staff are
unwilling and unable to do much about it.

Microsoft's anti-spam stance is being undermined by a
combination of faulty software systems, bureaucracy and

Lyman means well, but getting Microsoft to deliver a service
that comes close to Korra'ti's objectives seems to be like
trying to push water uphill. This isn't helped by the greed
factor operating on top of the other problems.

According to Korra'ti, "The allegedly legitimate' spammers...
don't hide where their mail is coming from, and at least they
pretend to offer a way off their lists." As far as quite a
few users are concerned, that makes Microsoft a "legitimate

Several mailing lists and newsgroups are currently discussing
complaints about Microsoft and spam, and there have been
several clear instances where the company has been at fault,
and where this has been conceded by Lyman. One of the problems,
he admits, is a "tainted" database that isn't being fixed, and
is still being used.

He also concedes that at least one mailing wasn't justified,
that some Microsoft staff aren't acting according to official
company policy when it comes to unsolicited mail, and that the
company is currently far more concerned with privacy, and is
therefore putting too few resources into cleaning up its own
act on spam.

The database problems often make it difficult for people to get
off the mailing list, which they could well have been put onto
without their agreement. This is by no means unusual in the
industry, but Microsoft continues to add people to its list, to
use databases that haven't been properly cleaned up, and to
transfer mailing lists to third parties without the knowledge
or permission of the people listed.

The emailing that caused most ire was one about Microsoft's
plans for Y2K (two copies of this one just this morning - Ed),
but other smaller volume efforts continue. Some people also
claim that visitors to Microsoft sites may find themselves
getting unrequested newsletters.

And last week Microsoft is said to have mailed MCSE training
course attendees who had specifically checked the 'no publicity'

When Microsoft sold Sidewalk to Citysearch, it seems to have
sold its database without deleting those who had asked to be
removed but at the time were possibly only flagged for removal.
To their annoyance, they were then started hearing from Sidewalk:
"Since you previously registered with Sidewalk, we thought you
would like to know..."

Unsolicited email from Microsoft may say that the email is being
sent to "preferred members," but recipients frequently deny that
they have ever knowingly become a "member" of any Microsoft list.

It can however be very difficult not to wind up on one or more
Microsoft lists, via registration of OS or applications, or
through the (largely compulsory) registration procedure for the
Windows Update or Office Update services.

Microsoft inevitably gets its hands on details of a very large
proportion of PC users, and it therefore has a duty to be
serious, consistent and responsible in the way it handles this

But on the contrary, from what Lyman concedes it would seem
Microsoft is inconsistent, irresponsible, and cavalier. Lyman
admits that all is not well with Microsoft databases. He said in
a newsgroup posting that "the data base was tainted and the
mailing wasn't justified".

But he seems to have little power to influence change at
Microsoft, where the current concern at the group where he
reports is privacy rather than spamming. He is unable personally
to get at the faulty database, and in effect blames Microsoft's
impenetrable bureaucracy. When challenged about unplugging the
offending servers, he wrote: "Physical ability does not equal

There are many examples of users taking all possible steps to get
removed, and finding it impossible. People were "working to fix
their messes," Lyman said, but even a threat to divert a $50,000
budget to non-Microsoft products was only likely "to impact the
local [Microsoft] weenie more than the guys at corp HQ who did
the spamming."

He was also brutally frank about what happens when email is sent
to addresses like "you're probably hitting
some little peon in the organisation who has zero say in how
things are run. ... By the time the stuff gets to those who are
the decision makers it's probably been boiled down to numbers and
stats with maybe a few samples of the complaints. 600,000 messages
went out, 100 complaints came back, hmm, must be doing a pretty
good job.'"

Lyman notes that most Microsoft marketing people don't have
Internet experience, and so fail to grasp the implications of what
they're doing. As far as they're concerned what the recipients
regard as unsolicited spam are "informative announcements".

Lyman says: "The one thing that's kept my frustration over the
pace of things at Microsoft from completely boiling over is I
deal with the same people for privacy issues as I do with spamming
issues. They've been very focussed on piracy and frankly I'd
rather have them focussed on privacy."

One of the greatest fears for spammers (at least the "legitimate"
spammers who can be tracked and pilloried) is being black-listed
by the Mail Abuse Protection System (MAPS) founded by Paul Vixie
in 1997. MAPS has developed a Real-Time Black Hole List (RBL) used
by some 300 licensed subscribing ISPs (numbers have doubled each
year, so far) to block spam.

Nick Nicholas, the front man for MAPS, said there were 12 complete
nominations to list Microsoft, and many incomplete ones, when the
issue of black-listing Microsoft was raised. Lyman thinks that MAPS
is trying to become an "anti-spamming version of TRUSTe" but is
doing it from outside the corporate world.

This is true, and for the moment at least, MAPS does not enjoy too
much major league support. MAPS admits it has made mistakes in its
blacklists in the past. There were rumblings that Microsoft might
sue MAPS if Microsoft was placed on the RBL list (Lyman ominously
mentioned that "deep pockets usually win"), but Microsoft recently
concluded a deal with MAPS to use the product in Hotmail to cut
down on spam, making any legal action much less likely.

Ironically, Hotmail itself has taken legal action against what it
regards as the abuse of Hotmail. Lyman claims that Microsoft has
scheduled improving the database, but has no timing as to when this
will happen.

He noted that he took a firm line with Microsoft and has overcome
a view that persisted at Microsoft that people who complained had
forgotten they had registered to receive spam.

In one message Lyman said of old requests to be removed "the
database purge should clear them out", but it would be impossible
to find any culprits for previous abuses on the Microsoft staff.
But "if the harvested stuff is recent ["last year or so"], there's
a major problem with policy violation and heads need to roll." So
anybody getting junk mail from Microsoft to an email address first
used in the last year should take up Lyman's offer to sort the
matter out and contact him at

He noted: "I hope other companies avoid the mistakes our folks
made and go straight for the confirmed subscriptions up front.
It'll save them lots of pain."

Lyman appears to be a Microsoft person who is actually trying to
sort out the spamming situation, but with little or no help. And
there are those who say that the anti-spamming cure by the net cops
is worse than the disease.

In Congress recently Rep Heather Wilson told a hearing that
"banning all spam "may be unconstitutional because it would ban
unsolicited mail that people do not mind receiving - or even want
to receive..."

There is a way to block Microsoft spam for MS Exchange users who
use Exchange to provide SMTP services, and it's described at There are also spam filter
packages such as SLMail, MailShield, N-Plex, the Isode Message
Switch, VOPmail, and WorldSecureMail.

In view of what Lyman says, a column "written" by Bill Gates on
the subject of spam last year has a certain piquancy: "My company
is among many that offer regular emailings to customers and
potential customers. But we only send email to people who have
requested it, and we have easy ways for people to remove themselves
from the mailing list."

This is clearly untrue. Gates then described spam: "Sometimes spam
includes a purported way for you to remove yourself from the
mailing list, but it often doesn't work.

In fact, making the request may do nothing more than prove to the
spammer that your e-mail address is valid - prompting more

Ahem. Gastronomic note: Spam stands for spiced ham, and is a
trademark of Hormel Foods' tinned luncheon meat, first introduced
in 1937. For this reason, spam is often referred to as unsolicited
commercial email (UCE). There is also a spam fan club.


----- ---- --- -- - - -

Contact: Spamis, Box 1259, Seattle, WA 98111 / Phone or Fax: (206)260-2409

Microsoft Head Spam Spokesmen: Aaron Kornblum or Ryan Hamlin

Microsoft Head Law Firm: Preston, Gates, Ellis, Seattle, WA - USA
Lawyers at Fault: Robert J. Dzielak / David A. Bateman / Theodore J. Angelis

[Part 47 of 178]
(c)2005 SPAMIS: Strategic Partnership Against Microsoft Illegal Spam

How bizarre...
Tags: spam

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