Does this actually work?

This spam mail came into my mailbox, and I made the mistake of opening it. I know the spammers throw in random blocks of text and mangle the porn keywords to throw off our filters, but this juxtaposition was just plain weird.

Fundamentalists believe Jesus was God becoming man. I believe that Jesus was man becoming God.

URL deleted
Rvedhead Gxirl Sfucking Her Fhirst GIGTANTCOCK

The Holy Spirit can’t save saints or seats. If we don’t know any non-Christians, how can we introduce them to the Savior?Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Idleness is the stupidity of the body, and stupidity is the idleness of the mind.Jump into the middle of things, get your hands dirty, fall flat on your face, and then reach for the stars.

I suspect this would have been more effective at getting people to look at their site if they left out the garbled English line after the url. Although, I don’t know since I didn’t follow the link—maybe there’s an evangelical Christian site there.

(I sincerely hate and despise spammers. Currently, I’m getting about 2:1 junk:real mail ratios delivered to my laptop, and that’s after spam assassin torches much of it at one of the intermediary sites I run mail through.)


  1. sharon says

    I suspect this would have been more effective at getting people to look at their site if they left out the garbled English line after the url.

    Christ’ sake, don’t give them any ideas.

  2. lo says

    omg, loool! That is hilarious!
    And yeah sadly we all suffer from spam and increasingly smarter spammers.

  3. says

    Spam is the pits, but it’s also a fascinating example of an evolutionary arms race. Every time the spam filters improve, the spam emails evolve to get round them (the random blocks of text you mentioned are to get round Bayesian spam filters).

    It seems to me that we might actually need some intelligent design (small ‘i’, small ‘d’) to get round the problem. I think the solution is to charge one penny per email. This would create a whole new email ecosystem in which non-targeted spam would simply not be able to survive.

  4. Nix says

    Your SpamAssassin site is running SA 3.1.x and running sa-update on a regular basis, I hope?

    If not, upgrade! Your spam load will go right down. (For me, about one spam is missed by SpamAssassin a week at present.)

  5. Cameron says

    Don’t forget that the Federal Trade Commission has an address that you can forward this stuff to. I only use it for the scams, but I suppose you can send them the cheap-Viagra ads, too. The address is

  6. says

    Fundamentalists believe Jesus was God becoming man. I believe Jesus was a rvedhead gxirl fistucking her fhirst GIGORMUSCOCXK.

  7. says

    It’s fairly simple: public sexual repression leads to private perversion. Is it any wonder that the “sex-is-for-procreation-and-only-in-the-dark”-crowd are the ones interested in, uh, “Rvedhead Gxirl Sfucking Her Fhirst GIGTANTCOCK”s?

    The spammers have just recognised this, as well as realising that words like “Jesus”, “God”, “Holy Spirit” are highly non-spamlike. Combine this with a bunch of phrases similar to those that you all get sent in cute-dancing-animal-of-the-week forwarded emails from your grandmother ( “reach for the stars.” ), and it’s sure to sneak past the filters, and find a likely target.

    The real question is which of these words are rated so non-spam-like in PZM’s Bayesian spam filter, that they put this email in the non-spam bucket? :)

  8. Aerik Knapp-Loomis says

    At least no spam makes it into my gmail inbox. The spam filters catch it all. In fact sometimes it works too well. I occasionally look through the titles to see if something is not spam, and I actually caught a non-spam email in my spambox.

  9. says

    that’s after spam assassin torches much of it at one of the intermediary sites I run mail through.

    Chupacabra knows that’s true. I still get bullshit in my inbox about 2:1 and SHU supposedly has an awesome spam filter. Fuck that, I still get emails about investing in such-and-such stock.

  10. says

    I use gmail’s POP3 access, so I get webmail access anywhere and can still download my mail in standard mail clients.

    Catches virtually all spam from my experience, with about 4 false positives in the year I’ve been using it.

    Also ideal for laptop use, where you might otherwise lose your local database and thus your mail history.

  11. ikonen says

    It’s a funny juxtaposition, but it’s probably random. As I understand it, spam filters count spelling errors and lack of complete sentences against the likelihood that an email is legit, so now spammers add random blocks of text to their emails, which are grammatically correct but have nothing to do with their product. They also don’t want to just send the same block of text each time, or it’ll start getting tagged as spam as well, so the spam programs harvest random chunks of text from the internet now and add them to the emails.

  12. says

    It’s probably true that if instead of forwarding mail to all of my addresses to an account with spam assassin, it would be more effective if I forwarded it all to gmail and let their ruthless spam processing handle it. Has anybody lost any important email when google filters it?

  13. says

    Pretty much every preacher I’ve dealt with in my first church had, in some way, lingering and repressed perversion that eventually came out in a very creepy fashion.

  14. steve s says

    Gmail is super badass when it comes to spam. I get about 1 spam per week after google’s filters are done. It’s only caught a few real emails, and I chick the filter periodically.

  15. Scott says

    If your spamassassin-using site isn’t using the URIDNSBL plugin (included with sa, just not active by default), that is the one that gave me the most dramatic improvement in properly tagging spam, since it takes into account the links they are trying to get you to hit as well as images in the email that are fetched from the web. There is also a third-party yet free fuzzyocr plugin for sa that I’m now dabbling with and it seems promising for the ones that hide their real message in an image. About the only junk that still makes it through are genuine bounce messages from companies in response to spoofed messages that I never sent in the first place (and they should’ve never even been accepted by their server since they were sent from bogus servers that are not in my SPF record as being authorized to send mail from my domains. Amateurs.)

  16. says

    GMail likely uses more than just content analysis. For example, they probably do reverse and forward DNS lookups, respect Sender Policy Frameworks, use cross-account comparison, and take into account the “This is [not] spam” clicks by users.

    I use it to host my email addresses, and it does produce some rare false positives, unfortunately. However, it does catch spam such as you received.

  17. Marc Buhler says

    Over the weekend my work e-mail had about 180 messages arrive and while most of them were flagged as spam, the time I spent double checking was of course time wasted and in fact in the end every one of the messages was spam. Spammers should be given a free holiday in Cuba, each with a single room.

    (signed) marc

  18. says

    Spam is held for 30 days, and because gmail packs subject line and start of email text in the list view it means you can generally see the difference between spam and the very occasional false positive without having to open any individual messages. Gmail pop and smtp access also use secure connections so there’s less chance of intercepted mail.

    Only down side is if you want to use Gmails SMTP feature your gmail address will still appear in the header (along with your chosen send to address). From gmail docs:

    Note: your Gmail address will still be included in your email headers in the sender field, to help prevent your mail from being marked as spam. Most email clients do not display the sender field, though some versions of Microsoft Outlook may display “From on behalf of”

  19. Ichthyic says

    words like “Jesus”, “God”, “Holy Spirit” are highly non-spamlike.

    not in MY mailbox. In mine, those words are targeted specifically AS spam.

  20. says

    Although people are reporting spam is worse than ever. I have to say that I don’t get as much as I used to. I think both hotmail and gmail filters are pretty good at the moment or am I just lucky. Especially my e-mail. It filters all the spam away :-D.

    p.s. I deny the holy spirit.

  21. G. Tingey says

    WHY canot government actually DO something about SPAM?

    We none of us need or want it ……

  22. says

    Spam exists because people are actually buying the stuff that spammers advertise.

    If nobody ever did, it wouldn’t be cost effective, and they’d stop spamming.

    Unfortunately, there are a lot of easy solutions that begin with “If only everyone would…”

  23. jpf says

    Spam exists because people are actually buying the stuff that spammers advertise.

    If nobody ever did, it wouldn’t be cost effective, and they’d stop spamming.

    The big problem with that is that cost effectiveness in the case of mass emailing (especially if you’re not too concerned about legalities) could amount to only one or two sales (or rip offs). Since spammers spam to millions of addresses, even hooking the smallest fraction of a percent makes it worth while, and there will always be that smallest fraction of a percent who are hooked.

  24. MTran says

    I shouldn’t say this but I’ve had mostly good luck vis a vis spam, and I’ve been using email since the late 70s. (Is it okay for an atheist to figuratively “knock on wood”?)

    I started using Gmail for a handful of personal, business, and academic addresses a little over a year ago. I get an average of 300 – 500 valid emails a day. I have only had a very few false positives get kicked into the spam file.

    The false positives (fewer than a dozen in the last 10 months) were nearly all from textbook publishers sending mail with messages that included typical spam phrases like “great savings” “order now” and “20% off” and were loaded with images and URL links. They were all sent from addresses other than their primary customer service address, which were in my address book. I clicked the “this is not spam” button and within a month or so, those false positives stopped.

    A actually like having the POP3 flexibility that Gmail gives; I really do not care for GMail’s visual organization and prefer to use folders vs constantly relying on a search function to find relevant messages.

  25. SEF says

    I chick the filter periodically.

    It looks like PZ’s spam has already been (Jack) Chicked by some filter though. :-D

  26. says

    Wow, you guys are lucky. I usually have to mark about 7-12 messages as spam per day, even with gmail. I let gmail delete my spam every 30 days instead of bothering myself to do it, and right now there are close to 17,000 spam messages in that folder. What helps is that my address is so easy to use, that everyone does. I’ve been signed up by people who don’t want to use their own e-mail for all kinds of amusing things. Which, of course, puts me on more spam lists. Considering the volume, though, I think gmail does a fine filtering job, especially compared to what I used to have to do with Spam Bully (which is a waste of code.)

  27. Carlie says

    I’ve noticed that my gmail filter catches them all, but there are a lot more spam messages that try to get through gmail in the first place than with my yahoo account. Yahoo isn’t quite as good for catching them, but there are fewer to begin with. Potato, potahto.

  28. says

    I get lots of weird religous spam also. Sometimes I try to figure out how they are phishing or otherwise making money off of the spam. Sometimes I can’t find any.

    I guess this is the new door to door religous people. Just spam everyone in the world to save souls.

  29. kevin Dorner says

    2:1? You lucky so-and-so. Mine is more like 100:1.

    The garbage text in spam is carefully chosen to be representative of text in real mailing lists ie religious, political, quotes. When these are flagged as spam it causes legitimate e-mails afterwards to end up being flagged as spam. The goal is to cause so many legitimate e-mails to get flagged as spam that the filter is worthless and the spam will have to be let through. This is referred to as “Bayesian poisoning” or some such.

  30. Bruce Johnson says

    I concur with Nix. Your SA admin should check those settings.

    I’m an admin here at the UA, we use SA, and 87% of mail goes straight to /dev/null without a human looking at it, and our false positive rate is near zero.

    (And this in an institution where it would actually be likely that an e-mail about Viagra was real…)

    So far, SpamAssasin seems to be winning (It’s not really a good analogy to use for evolution since everything in this fight is directed in some fashion.)

    I prefer to analogize it as a Hong Kong chopsocki movie.

    “I use Flying Drunken Swan to spam you!”

    “A-HA! I block with Spinning Angry Scorpion filter!”

  31. says

    My current pet theory is that the evolutionary arms race between spambots and spam filters will create the first genuine artificial intelligence. Eventually the spambots will become so adept at mimicking legitimate email that they will simply become interesting people to talk to.

  32. Leon says

    I like the mixed metaphor. How am I supposed to reach for the stars when I’m flat on my face?