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By Claudia Lynch, Guest Columnist and Benchmarks Online Editor

Dr. Baczewski was unable to complete the column he had planned for this month so we will revisit a topic of interest to anyone who has been an active Internet user.

SPAM

It's that time of year again, when the spammers gear up to barrage you with all sorts of holiday messages, many of which you are encouraged to forward to five friends!

In case you didn't know, according to Webopedia, Spam is:

Electronic junk mail or junk newsgroup postings. Some people
define spam even more generally as any unsolicited e-mail.
However, if a long-lost brother finds your e-mail address and sends
you a message, this could hardly be called spam, even though it's
unsolicited. Real spam is generally e-mail advertising for some
product sent to a mailing list or newsgroup.

In addition to wasting people's time with unwanted e-mail, spam
also eats up a lot of network bandwidth. Consequently, there are
many organizations, as well as individuals, who have taken it upon
themselves to fight spam with a variety of techniques. But because
the Internet is public, there is really little that can be done to prevent
spam, just as it is impossible to prevent junk mail. However, some
private online service, such America Online, have instituted policies
to prevent spammers from spamming their subscribers.

There is some debate about the source of the term, but the generally
accepted version is that it comes from the Monty Python song,
"Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam…"
Like the song, spam is an endless repetition of worthless text. Another
school of thought maintains that it comes from the computer group lab at the
University of Southern California who gave it the name because it has many
of the same characteristics as the lunchmeat Spam:

Nobody wants it or ever asks for it.
No one ever eats it; it is the first item to be pushed to the side when eating the entree.
Sometimes it is actually tasty, like 1% of junk mail that is really useful to some people.

Spam has become so ubiquitous that it has reportedly been added to the latest edition of the New Oxford Dictionary of English. We have written about Spam many times in the past. "Is Spam Illegal?" was an April 1998 "Network Connection" that explored the legal remedies to Spam. That same issue of Benchmarks Online had an article about some of the steps UNT has taken to combat Spam on campus.

Spam Links

Following is an edited list of links taken mostly from Spam/UCE-Fighting Resources:

Urban Legend Combat Kit

If you are one of those people who gets constant Spam attempting to play on your fears and/or sympathies, you might be interested in the "Urban Legend Combat Kit." The kit is described as a collection of individual E-mail letters, each of which focuses on a particular Internet urban legend or hoax. The letters are free of charge and are yours to do with as you please. They are made available by the people at the Internet Tour Bus. According to the October 29 TOURBUS, the Combat Kit currently contains eight newly written email letters that help you combat the following Internet urban legends and hoaxes:

  • The Kidney Harvesting Story [someone wakes up in a hotel room in a bathtub full of ice and their kidneys are missing]

  • The Craig Shergold Story [a dying child wants you to send him business cards, greeting cards, or get well cards so that he can make it into the Guinness Book of Worlds records]

  • The Dying Kid Stories [in return for your forwarding an email letter to all of your friends, a certain hospital or not-for-profit organization will make a donation to research in the name of a dying child]

  • The 9-0-# Scare [by using 90# you end up giving the individual that called you the ability to make a long distance call and have the call charged to you]

  • The Bill Gates Email Tracing Program Story [forward an email letter to all of your friends, and Bill Gates will give you money]

  • The Disney Email Tracing Program Story [Walt Disney Junior will give you a free trip to Disney World if you forward an email letter to all of your friends]

  • The Guinness Book of Records Story [sign your name to an email letter and forward it to your friends, and everyone who signs the letter will be named in the next Guinness Book]

  • Virus Warnings [well, you probably know what these look like].

To retrieve all of the email letters that are in the newly updated TOURBUS Urban Legend Combat Kit for FREE, just send a new email letter to URBANLEGENDS@NETSQUIRREL.COM with the command GET HOAX PACKAGE in the body of your email message.

Next time: In next month's "Network Connection," Dr. Baczewski plans to discuss a new proposal to centralize the registration of Internet names and numbers under one private organization, and how this might be a dramatic turning point in the growth and development.