Damn spam!

It's enough to make a preacher cuss

A new generation of spam has hit the internet. For a long time, most of the spam has consisted of offers for Viagra or Cialis (often spelled in very creative ways); offers to make me a 'bigger man'; or those "urgent security notices" from eBay or Third Fifth Bank.

The new latest generation of spam consists of messages with an attached file, often labeled something.pdf or The subject heading may be blank; something obviously fake, like "paul_6549.pdf"; or the ever so unlikely "You've received a greeting ecard from a Friend!" (or School Mate! or Class Mate!).

Attachment spam has been coming in great numbers, but 1 August seems to have triggered an especially heavy campaign. My junk email folder got almost 60 of them on the first download of the day, and another four or five have been coming about every five minutes. Questionable investment tips were very popular today.

junk email folder
A small portion of today's junk email folder

Until today, I have simply deleted the whole batch without a second thought. But there were so many of them today that curiosity finally overcame caution. I picked two to examine after scanning the files for viruses and spyware.

Attachment: journal.pdf

This turned out to be an actual PDF file. The first page had the standard investment come-on that has been spammed for months:

Sure, and I have some swampland in Florida you might like to buy

Checking the properties of the PDF file, I found that the original file was stock_tmp.txt and was converted to PDF by text2pdf v1.1, but no other identifying information was visible.

Pages two through seven were filled with, well, filler — Sentences apparently drawn at random from wherever.

Selection of "filler" from journal.pdf

Just for kicks, I googled the beginning of the sentence "For example, active manuka honey with UMF is about twice as effective" and discovered that it comes verbatim from a page on the site for The University of Waikato, New Zealand, an apparently legitimate institution.


WinZip ruled that "does not appear to be a valid archive" and suggested I download it again (Fat chance!). Checking the file's properties was a dead-end, so I opened the file in a text editor that I often use (TextPad). The file was indeed binary, but the header, as I read it, suggests it is a RAR file, another file-compression and archive format.

Beginning of binary file

A second purported .zip file also turned out to not be a valid .zip archive, and the header again seemed to indicate it is a RAR file.

Beginning of binary file

Since relatively few people have even heard of .RAR files, much less have a utility to decompress them, I don't understand the point of spamming the world with files like this.

Sic 'em!

The guys (or gals) who do this need to be caught and severely punished. There is just no socially-redeeming value in spamming, and a great many pernicious consequences. I am generally opposed to capital punishment, but in the case of spammers, I'd be willing to make an exception.