off the Press - News and Comment
November 30th 2004
Spams the Spammers
by Erika Morphy and TEE Tech Lab
The European Internet portal Lycos has developed something that just
about every e-mail user has fantasized about at one time or another:
a way to spam spammers.
Lycos is offering a screensaver that repeatedly requests data from Web
sites that use spam-email to market their goods and services. The software
essentially allows recipients of spam to band together in order to clog
the bandwidth of the servers that run these Web sites.
The screensaver can be downloaded from www.makelovenotspam.com.
Test Case in Sweden
The screensaver was quietly rolled out in Sweden earlier this month,
to rave success, Lycos spokesperson Kay Oberbeck told NewsFactor. "So
far, it has been downloaded 80,000 times, which is phenomenal for us,"
he says. In some cases, according to reports, the response times of
the targeted servers have been increase as much as 85 percent.
to users -- besides the inherent satisfaction of a little revenge --
is that the requests sent are done under the umbrella of the URL itself.
"When the server
management notices that capacity has dropped and it does a check to
see where the requests are coming from," Oberbeck explains, "all
he will see is wwww.makelovenotspam.com."
On December 1st, screensavers localized for the other European countries
in which Lycos operates will go live.
Lycos, however, does not want to take out the spam servers completely,
Oberbeck says. Therefore the software has a health check mechanism that
will stop the flow of requests when the servers' capacity becomes severely
"Our main intention is to make spam a less attractive marketing
tool for spammers by significantly slowing down their bandwidth."
Makelovenotspam also sends a message to spammers, he says, that the
vast majority of recipients are truly fed up. Because spam is so
if less than 1 percent of recipients respond, it is worth it to companies
-- despite the legions of consumers they have annoyed along the way.
This new tool, though, Oberbeck says, is a way to show the spam server
owners that sending spam may be more costly than they anticipated.
It screws up your computer too
We installed the Lycos screen saver on one of our test Windows XP PC's
running an average AMD Athlon XP2400+. The installation is simple, but
that's about all.
the screen saver runs fine, showing you who's being DOS attacked and the
effect, it also appears to screw up your own ability to surf the net,
even when it's not running!
yet is that there is no Unistallation application installed in the Windows
Add/Remove Control Panel. You better set a restore point before installing
this Lycos Screen Saver, just incase you don't like it.
The Web portal Lycos Europe on Friday terminated a spam-fighting campaign
that had been criticized as a breach of Internet civility.
The decision follows
complaints from security experts that Lycos was acting as a vigilante
and could potentially harm legitimate Web sites by distributing a screensaver
program that aims to overwhelm what Lycos defines as spam servers.
Lycos spokesman Kay
Oberbeck said the "Make Love Not Spam" campaign was always meant
to be temporary. He said Lycos decided to stop it solely because the company
felt satisfied the program had managed to raise awareness and spark discussion.
About 100,000 people
had downloaded the free screensaver. When a computer running the screensaver
was idle, the program sent bogus traffic to alleged spam sites designated
by Lycos, increasing bandwidth costs for the sites' operators.
will no longer send such traffic because Lycos disabled the site list,