Some people try and spam anything

Some people try and spam anything. I run the village website and have a little, simple suggestions form that visitors can leave requests on. The messages go only to me. Being a form, someone is now spamming it with links to websites trying to improve their page rank and visitor numbers no doubt. Only I see the messages so it’s a waste of their time and effort.

The Last Templar (Raymond Khoury)

I like to carry a book with me just in case I have some spare time between jobs. Unfortunately I forgot to take a book with me recently so was forced to buy one as I passed a supermarket. I mean, a whole 5.00 for a book, that’s like three times more than I normally pay! Still, the book I found was called “The Last Templar”. This book reminded me of “The Da Vinci Code” and was equally enjoyable. Instead of the blood line of Jesus Christ that the Da Vinci Code is based around, this was based around an order of knights and their treasure. Not treasure in the financial sense, treasure more as a political controlling factor over the Vatican and Catholic Church. I wont say much more, it may spoil the story if you read it. The story is pure fiction but uses a sprinkling of historical fact to make it seem believable. As much as anything, this was a detective story, some action scenes and a love story for the two main characters.

Interesting Statistics for the new .eu domain

I just read some interesting statistics on the eurid web site about the .eu domain registrations. .eu is a new Top Level Domain (TLD) and basically allows more people to have short and specific domain names. If your “companyname” is already taken in .com, .co.uk, .net and so on, you may be able to register it as “companyname.eu”.

Since Launch on the 7th April, almost 1.8 million names have been registered. There was also a breakdown of how many domains were registered by country of registration. Here’s a small extract:

Country Number of Domains Registered Percentage of Total Domains registered
DE 580,700

32
GB 339,234 19
NL 212,944 12
IT 106,010 6
FR 89,903 5

There are around 60 million people in the UK, roughly the same as France and Italy, yet we bought notably more of the new domains than they have. In Germany there are roughly 85 million people and they seem more taken with the new domains than we have been. The thing I find particularly interesting is that the Netherlands has only 16 million people, so they’ve been buying the new domains at quite a rate!

Let’s look at this another way. How many people in each country are there for each .eu domain:

Country Number of Domains Registered Percentage of Total Domains registered People per .eu Domain
DE 580,700 32 146
GB 339,234 19 176
NL 212,944 12 75
IT 106,010 6 565
FR 89,903 5 667

The table shows that there is one new .eu domain for every 75 people in the Netherlands, wheras in France you’d have to find 667 people to find one with a .eu domain. I wonder what the reason is behind this big difference in buying domain names.

(note: Population numbers checked on eurostat web site)

Spam Wars – on the trail of a serious spammer

I think I’m going to have to start a new category for these spam wars posts – there are getting to be so many!

Today I would like to report to you all a small success. Remember that domain mail-2204vf49.co.uk that had it’s address details hidden as it was registered to a non-trading individual who had opted out of displaying details in the registry? I spoke to nominet about that and they said if I could send them evidence that the domain was actually registered for a trading reason then they could ‘correct’ the opt out declaration and show the details (only non-trading individuals can opt out of the registry). I sent them a fax explaining the history of spam from this domain and extracts from my server log files and they agreed that the domain is really being used commercially. So here it
is, the owner of the spam sending domain is: [begin fanfare]

Domain name:
mail-2204vf49.co.uk

Registrant:
Tony Slater

Registrant type:
UK Individual

Registrant’s address:
du-pont house
Cranbrook
GH56 9JH
GB

WAIT!!! STOP THE FANFARE!!! … there’s something fishy about that address. Like no street name… and I don’t live far from Cranbrook and I happen to know that Cranbrook is in the TN postcodes, not GH. The Royal Mail website doesn’t even recognise the GH postcode.

What next? Well, I’ve sent Nominet an email asking what to do when an address is false in the registry. I think I’ll give company “T” another phone call as well. The man there admited sending us the spam though this domain, so perhaps he’ll tell me who owns it (perhaps I’m giving the benefit of doubt to often, but hey, perhaps they could have accidentally registered the name with completely incorrect details……)

Continue reading “Spam Wars – on the trail of a serious spammer”

Spam Wars – A busy day!

Wow, so much progress in one day. Company “W” came back with the story that they didn’t actually buy the list. It was given to them by one of the owners friends. I think we can all guess how he’s feeling (the owner and the friend!).

The friend had used some software called “Atomic” or similar to scan web sites and extract the email addresses. A quick google brings us

Atomic Email Hunter, an email extractor, is designed to harvest e-mail addresses and user names from web sites using the HTTP protocol.

.

(I’m not linking to the web site on principle by the way). I’m hoping to speak to “friend” to find out more about how this software works, how many addresses it found, how he chose (or if the software chose) the domain names to scan for email addresses. I also want to know how it describes itself to the hunted web server (I expect it calls itself “internet explorer” or similar).

Onto company “D”, who came back with the correct name and phone number of the company they bought an address of mine from. They also included a request that I don’t make contact with them again and said they would involve solicitors if I say anything slanderous against them. I thought that it couldn’t be slander if it was true (and I have the spam email to prove it) – perhaps I better check….

Quick google search returns: Basic Libel for Idiots
normal caveat applies here – don’t trust everything you read on the internet as it could be wrong!
It says:

Basic Libel for Idiots
By Adam Porter, editor Year Zero, Dec 2002.

Libel is the written word. Slander is spoken.

There are two versions of defamation, libel and slander. Libel is when the defamation is written down (including email, bulletin boards and websites), and slander is when the incident relates to words spoken.

In the UK, if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging, the onus will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court. In other words, if you make the claim, you’ve got to prove it!

OK, I stand corrected, I would be libeling company D if I lied about how they sent me spam, not slandering them! I wont correct the man at company D on this point though, he’d rather not hear from me and if he really has given me the details of the list he bought then I will leave him in peace.

Spam Wars – a little progress.

I’ve had some progress with Eden communications. They still insist they can keep sending the spam (so later I shall discuss this with the information commissioner, watch this space for the results), but they did provide the contact details of the company they bought the list from. The company that sold this list also tried to call me as well. Always wanting to give people the benefit of the doubt, we shall call the sending company “T”. “T” insist they bought the addresses in good faith, so I will be emailing them to ask for the details of the company they bought them from. By the way, the reason for that strange domain name used in sending spam (mail-2204vf49.co.uk) is because they use it to track campaigns. Sounds resonable but I still have many unanswered questions. Still, lets give them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to answer before jumping to conclusions.

Batteries will *require* recycling – so what happens to ipods?

I recieved the following in a news summary from my local chamber of commerce,

Battery recycling mandatory in two years – Battery recycling schemes for businesses and consumers must be implemented across Europe by 2008, the European Union (EU) has ruled. Public collection points where local residents and firms can deposit used batteries will be established as part of EU efforts to recycle 25% of all batteries within four years of the scheme being set up. Firms manufacturing devices that run on batteries will have to make their products in such a way that users can easily remove used batteries – at their own cost.

So, what’s going to happen to my new Ipod Shuffle? The battery is not removable and although rechargeable once it dies it cannot be replaced. I guess Apple will need to have it redesigned…

Spam wars continue…

OK, so I still haven’t heard from Eden, but I have received spam from 2 different companies to an address never used for spam before (a role based address of webmaster@….). That address is also only listed on one website that I run. The website also has email addresses for some friends who have businesses so I was able to ask them if they had received any spam. They had, and some sent me copies for my records.

Both companies that sent the spam gave full details of who they were so I’ve followed them up.

Company “W” sent email under the name of two different companies they run. One a web design company, one a hosting company. I phoned and spoke to their MD who was upset that the list he bought was not legitimate and that therefore his company was implicated in spam. I suggested that if I send an email explaining the situation and asking for the name of the company he bought the list from he could reply and provide their details. He agreed so now I’m waiting to know the details of the company they bought the list from.

Company “D” sent me the spam on Friday afternoon so I sent an email to their office explaining how they had broken the regulations and so on. Very prompt reply from the operations director apologising and saying he will remove my name from the list. He also named the company that he bought the list from but hasn’t yet given me their contact details. I did have a quick look for the company he named, but there are several companies of that name and I wouldn’t want anyone to mix them up. Once I have them identified I shall let you all know.

I have a feeling both of these companies bought their list from the same source.

If you are wondering why I haven’t named the companies that sent the spam above it is because I currently believe they were mislead as to where the lists had come from. Yes, they should have checked but I know in running my own business that you have to place a lot of trust in suppliers. If ever you decide to buy a list PLEASE check the addresses. If you see an address webmaster@… or postmaster@…. the list is most likely rubbish. These addresses are role based addresses, used for receiving messages specifically related to their name. Often they are receive only addresses and hardly likely to acknowledge an opt-in email acknowledgement. These companies shall remain nameless as it is possible for us all to make mistakes. Eden are a special case, on the phone they declared to me they would continue to send spam, so they deserve a mention.

I also had an interesting phone call with someone at the Information Commissioners office. I was wondering how many companies they have taken to court for sending spam. The answer: none. Before you all start jumping up and down bemoaning the government bureaucracy, there’s a good reason. Firstly, most spam reported to them is unactionable as it originates from outside of the UK (and therefore outside of their jurisdiction). Secondly most companies that send spam stop after a phone call. There’s no need to take them to court if they stop sending spam. Generally companies wouldn’t like to be seen as sending spam as it wouldn’t do their reputation any good, so I think Information Commissioners Office is right in not automatically taking people to court. So, government offices can be sensible and efficient.

Now, what to do about Eden Communications….

A new category – Warbirds

i-97d866fe9723f7af4553351b3694be01-wbiii2005_logo.gifAnother new category – Warbirds

What is it? It’s a game I play on the internet, I mentioned it before in another post. It’s a multiplayer online game, where people fly lots of different aircraft and try and shoot each other down. People from all over the world take part – the group I mostly fly with come from Germany, America, Argentina and New Zealand. Hmmm, lots of players from countries the UK has a history of fighting with, a little ironic don’t you think?

Spam (warning – I'll be ranting again!)

I hate spam. I don’t mind companies making genuine attempts to sell us things, researching us using our website and contacting us by email, phone or fax (I even have a page on our web site just for that reason). However, I get really annoyed when they make up email address and bounce them off the server to see if they work or not. If they do they then send email by the bucket load that is completely irrelevant to the email address in question.

Today, I received yet more spam from a company called Eden Communications (25 High Street, Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 5AB Tel: 01732 865 313 sales@edencomms.co.uk although they didn’t include their real email address in the spam). Being a localish company I decided to call them and ask them why they are sending so much spam to me (and my wife, and an employee that no longer works for me, and an email address that related to a specific product on our website.. you get the picture). Their answer was that “they send them through another company and are told the list is only people who have provided their email address and want to receive them”. I asked if they ever saw the list of email address they were sending things too and the answer was “no”. I suggested they ask to see it so they would see it’s obvious the list is not genuine, then stop using that company. Their answer was “no” [pause in stunned silence] “We get a lot of business from it and very few complaints” he said.

Well, there you go. Eden Communications feel it is perfectly acceptable to send spam to because they get lots of business from it. I originally thought they had made a mistake (we are all human after all) and hadn’t meant to pay a company to send spam on their behalf. Many companies have made that mistake (even the big ones from time to time) and I would say it’s not unreasonable for the non technical internet user to believe the claims of a company that all the addresses in the list they are paying for have agreed to receive email advertisements.

I’ve just looked up the regulations on the internet:

Statutory Instrument 2003 No. 2426 -The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

Use of electronic mail for direct marketing purposes

22. – (1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where –

(a) that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b) the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and

(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

(4) A subscriber shall not permit his line to be used in contravention of paragraph (2).

[and skipping a bit…]

Proceedings for compensation for failure to comply with requirements of the Regulations
30. – (1) A person who suffers damage by reason of any contravention of any of the requirements of these Regulations by any other person shall be entitled to bring proceedings for compensation from that other person for that damage.

(2) In proceedings brought against a person by virtue of this regulation it shall be a defence to prove that he had taken such care as in all the circumstances was reasonably required to comply with the relevant requirement.

(3) The provisions of this regulation are without prejudice to those of regulation 31.

[and skipping another bit…]

Request that the Commissioner exercise his enforcement functions
32. Where it is alleged that there has been a contravention of any of the requirements of these Regulations either OFCOM or a person aggrieved by the alleged contravention may request the Commissioner to exercise his enforcement functions in respect of that contravention, but those functions shall be exercisable by the Commissioner whether or not he has been so requested.

Now I have the regulations in front of me, I’m going to phone them and ask for their comment again….
OK, the person I spoke to (possibly Tony?) is busy at the moment. I left my name and number and made it clear to the receptionist why I was phoning. I hope he phones back. If he does I’ll let you know anything else he says.

While we’re waiting and I’m still eating my lunch, let’s see what else we can find out about this spam. It claims to be from a domain “mail-2204vf49.co.uk” – doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue. I wonder who owns it? Fortunately the registry is published at http://www.nic.uk which reports:

Domain name:
mail-2204vf49.co.uk

Registrant:
Tony Slater

Registrant type:
UK Individual

Registrant’s address:
The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their address omitted from the WHOIS service.

Registrant’s agent:
PIPEX Communications Hosting Ltd t/a 123-Reg.co.uk [Tag = 123-REG]
URL: http://www.123-reg.co.uk

Relevant dates:
Registered on: 10-Apr-2006
Renewal date: 10-Apr-2008

That’s interesting. The name is registered as an individual (not a company), my guess is it’s not the same Tony as at Eden Comms though (I’ll see if I can find out later). It was registered very recently. That bit doesn’t surprise me. Domain names are cheap and if you are sending spam it will soon get blocked by all the spam filters. The strange name is simply used for this campaign then thrown away. They haven’t even changed the 123-reg holding page. Although the individual has withheld their address, there are ways of getting it if you need to.

Now to look for this Tony. Eden Communications doesn’t say if it’s a limited company on it’s web site and the domain is registered simply to “Eden Communications” with no registrant type supplied (Individual, Partnership, Company etc). There are no terms and conditions of sale on it’s web site either (they often mention whether the company is a partnership and who they are). Companies House lists an “Eden Communications Limited” as a company in London (just a co-incidence in name I think, not the same company). Looking though the Eden Comms web site for terms I found their ‘products’ page which says they provide “web design services” and under “email / Internet”

Email & Internet Access
We supply mail server software to provide E-Mail access for all users requiring their own Company E-Mail address.
Internet access can also be provided for designated users.
Other features include virus scanning, firewall security and ‘anti-spam’ to prevent unwanted E-Mails reaching the Inbox, together with reports providing detailed information on Internet usage.

Haha! That’s so funny, they offer anti-spam services and have been sending spam! I like the irony.

Just tried calling them again, ‘Tony’ is still not available. Perhaps he’ll call later.

11th May 2006 – Called again as Tony still had replied. He’s not in the office so I left my number once more and the URL of this web site.