I’ve been approved!

That mortgage I never applied for has been approved!

This is one of the more family-friendly email subjects we’ve all received. If you get Spam emails regularly, you’re already familiar with the way the subjects seem to ebb and flow. This week, I started getting those cryptic emails filled with unrelated words:

acilitate cuisine crewel adjutant standeth cos hostess corporeal
rensselaer crewel sophisticate another staphylococcus portage
employee portage knowhow eyeglass esther comprehensible standeth
standeth cuisine pompeii rensselaer comprehensible hindsight
whereas crewel vancouver employee esther binuclear binuclear
bengali colicky institute polaroid theology portage

These emails are meant to test spam filters so that eventually when real spam emails are sent, the content will be “passed over” by the pre-trained filters.

It also demonstrates that no matter what we try to do to eliminate Spam, spammers will fight the technology with technology. Spam will get through – we can eliminate much of it, but not all of it since the “attack methods” keep changing.


The letter and number picture that humans are asked to identify before submitting an online form is called a “CAPTCHA” which stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” It’s a simple way to prove that a person is filling in the form, not a computer which in most cases cannot identify the characters. It worked pretty well too, until spammers fought this protection too…

Forget trying to teach computers to recognize characters – get huge numbers of humans to do this for them!

It’s easier than you’d imagine! Follow the link below to a story reported in one of my favorite monthly newsletters, Bruce Schneier’s “CRYPTO-GRAM.” The story shows how spammers have set up web sites where entering characters from CAPTCHAs culled from pages Internet-wide enable “players” to remove items of a stripper’s clothing. Each correct “response” shows a bit more skin, and at the same time thwarts a CAPTCHA somewhere on the Internet.

Here’s the link to the CAPTCHA Stripper story:

Here’s the link to the CRYPTO-GRAM Newsletter:

Here’s the link to the Wikipedia entry about CAPTCHAs:

Enjoy! (And don’t let the Spam make you crazy!)

December 3, 2007 @ 12:00 PM