Old canned spam?
April 25, 2004 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Why are some spam messages predated, often by days and occasionally by years (I just deleted two that were supposedly from the year 2000)? I'm sure there's some technical means to send them that way, but what do they get out of it? How likely am I to see a penis enlargement offer that's hidden on page 66 of my inbox?
posted by languagehat to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
technical, schmecknical!

email is text. you can fake any part of it you want to.
posted by quonsar at 10:05 AM on April 25, 2004

Well, if I put on my I'm-a-spammer-therefore-I-must-be-an-idiot thinking cap I come up with:
  • some people sort their mail the opposite way you do so oldest messages are seen first
  • If the mail is not immediately seen by you (ie, not at the top), you won't delete it right away and later you may be stupid enough to think that you actually kept it for some reason.

posted by dobbs at 10:09 AM on April 25, 2004

Ditto to dobbs: my e-mail is sorted top-down, oldest to newest... and I've come across "old" e-mail before, not realizing that it was fresh spam, and opened it.
posted by silusGROK at 10:18 AM on April 25, 2004

I'm using Thunderbird, and I have it set to view mail in "order received" instead of by "date" just for this reason.
posted by taz at 11:26 AM on April 25, 2004

just in the last couple of weeks i've started getting spam that is dated December 2003.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:48 AM on April 25, 2004

From this page:

Like most basic email headers, this one is pretty self-explanatory. It just indicates when the message was written. But what you may not know is that the information in the Date: line is supplied by the time on the sender's computer, which may or may not be set correctly. Also, the Date: line does not normally indicate when the message was sent, but only when it was written.

(Bold mine.)
posted by bitpart at 11:53 AM on April 25, 2004

Also, I think that when using php to automate outbound mail, the headers can be manipulated. That's what I got from the 7th comment on this php manual page.
posted by bitpart at 12:08 PM on April 25, 2004

headers can be manipulated in any programming language or even with notepad. email is not magic.
posted by quonsar at 12:23 PM on April 25, 2004

...well, except for those sendmail puts there itself and whatnot. Those are the ones that matter. And it really annoys me when people have their computer clocks set incorrectly. But I have a time fetish; and I use SNTP on my computers and several of my clocks (and watch) use the NIST signal to self-set.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:38 PM on April 25, 2004

you don't have to use sendmail. you can just telnet to port 25 on the computer you're sending email to and start typing (assuming you know smtp). any header that's not generated on the machine where you receive email is unreliable - that includes the date sent (unlike date received, which is why taz sorts that way).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:25 PM on April 25, 2004

and it really annoys me when people have their computer clocks set incorrectly

A lot of people do this to fool 30-day trials of software (not that it works with most of the newer stuf... or so I've heard).
posted by Mick at 2:19 PM on April 25, 2004

I think it's due to the incompetence of spammers who can't get their computer clocks set correctly, not for any sneaky reason.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:44 PM on April 25, 2004

as a sidenote, resetting your clock to an earlier time is a great way to fake teachers/bosses out of punishing you for turning in assignments late. Particularly those that hate/fear technology. "oh, you didn't get my paper? I sent it this morning, I guess the network must be slow today."
posted by rorycberger at 3:56 PM on April 25, 2004

While we're sort of on the subject, does anybody know why I get a lot of spam lately with subject lines full of nonsense like this:
tree griffin coalesce polytope glissade aerate ligget prorogue cerebellum implicant rickets durward toilet osmium pronounce aberdeen encephalitis blocky hothouse sponsor folly elan bingham crossarm sliver reformatory broadloom fatima aba dis answer scathe o'donnell husbandry

posted by jaronson at 6:07 PM on April 25, 2004

I think it's an attempt to confuse spam recognition filters, jaronson.
posted by timeistight at 6:35 PM on April 25, 2004

"tree griffin coalesce polytope glissade aerate ligget prorogue "

- I just always assumed they'd got James Joyce to try to sell my viagra.
posted by Pericles at 2:25 AM on April 26, 2004

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