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Overall, Ohio is home to 21,250 manufacturing operations.
August 26, 2014 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Can you explain this odd spam email? It seems to consist of quotes from random Wikipedia articles.

I just got an email from [myemailaddressbeforemyemail's@sign]@charter.com. (Note, I do not have Charter internet or cable or anything.)

The subject line of the email is "Overall, Ohio is home to 21,250 manufacturing operations." The body of the email is "Commander Byrne assigns Mick to Dianne's survey crew. Paintings, Ways to Live, and Values.
May 30, but was derailed four days earlier when Ms. Jane Dupree Gulley, in the late 1970s."

These seem to be quotes and half-quotes from various Wikipedia articles. There are no links or attachments in the email or anything else that would to seem to potentially provide a financial benefit to whomever used some surely-not-free resources to send this spam email, presumably to many people.

What could this email mean? Why might it have been sent?
posted by lewedswiver to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Could be spammers trying to poison (or otherwise confuse) your ISP's Bayesian filters.
posted by Poldo at 9:41 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


As to the reason for the text: Bayesian poisoning, intended to help the message get past spam filters, or alternately to degrade the spam filter making future spam messages more likely to get through. (It may or may not be effective, but it is enough that the spammer believes it will be effective.)

As for the purpose of the email itself: if it's not merely to degrade spam filters alone, were there any images in the email? Images can be used to detect when an email is viewed (as the image will only be downloaded when the email is opened, if the user's email client is set up that way), which in turn can be a method of identifying active, human-read email addresses.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:46 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


No images. Bayesian poisoning makes sense -- hadn't heard of that before, thanks!
posted by lewedswiver at 9:54 PM on August 26


Images can be used to detect when an email is viewed (as the image will only be downloaded when the email is opened, if the user's email client is set up that way), which in turn can be a method of identifying active, human-read email addresses.

Also, the image could be a single pixel, or white/transparent in color, so as to not tip you off. I'll confess to having used this trick when posting ads on Craig's List in the past (before they got smarter), hosting the image on a server where I had access to the server logs.
posted by CommonSense at 10:04 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


This is why a lot of email clients don't display images by default until you hit a button. Heck, there was a version of Firefox or Thunderbird that actually had a setting to never show images under X pixels in size, since there wasn't a legitimate use for a 1 pixel image.
posted by Canageek at 11:42 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


Depending on how you view your email, if the email was correctly identified as spam it may be that it did indeed contain links or images but your client stripped them to protect you.
posted by solotoro at 3:46 AM on August 27


Botnet stumbling towards sentience, communicating in Ascian to avoid detection?

Got one a few months ago that read: "The Ebon Triad has cells throughout Oerth, each working to raise funds to finance their ambitious project. Exposure to the intense radiation would almost certainly quickly incapacitate or kill anyone who attempts to do so. The previous wikilink is a disambig.", which I'm pretty sure is a pre-emptive apology from Skynet.
posted by inire at 7:27 AM on August 27


inire: I have no idea there, but that first bit is about Greyhawk, so your bot is a D&D fan.
posted by Canageek at 9:48 AM on August 27


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