promotional spam that made me laugh

Posted on Mon 24 October 2005 in Spam wars

Just recieved a very funny spam email from a company called ..second thoughts, not going to give them the benefit of more publicity. Anyway, It appears they are trying to sell some sort of software firewall/anti-virus/proxy server. Being particularly well written for spam, I took at look at the email headers. Email headers aren't normally displayed by your email client but they contain all the important things about the email, like which email servers it had travelled through on it's way to you. They can also contain custom headers, and for an email proclaiming such wonderful anti-virus protection services, I thought the following X-headers were hillarious...

X-4SureHosting-Scanner-Information: Please visit www.4surehosting.co.uk for more info on Virus Scanning services
X-4SureHosting-Scanner: Not scanned: please login to your domain name level control panel and upgrade your package to include Anti-Virus scanning for your entire domains email

::: {.amended} 4surehosting.co.uk sent me an email this week asking for more information on the spam email. They also asked for me to make it clear on my blog that the spam email DID NOT come from them. As they pointed out to me, my blog entry could easily be mis-read to imply that the spam came from 4sure (it did NOT come from them). So why did it mention them (and for my non technical friends what's an X-Header)?

When you send an email, it goes from your computer via your Internet Service Provider's server and on to it's destination. 4surehosting are an internet service provider, just like BT, AOL but much smaller. Every computer that handles an email messages adds information to the X-Headers that record the path the email has taken and other relevant informaion.

Although 4surehosting are small compared to the big ISP's*,

  • 1) They are sharp enough to offer their customers virus scanning on email sent though them (and the x-header gets updated to say whether or not the email was checked)
  • 2) They care enough to spot spam and actually want to stop it being sent through their servers.
  • 3)They actually took the time to email me and find out more details about this particular spam message (I don't think companies the size of BT or AOL would)

.You may think it's every ISP's job to prevent spam being sent by their customers but it's not. There's no real way BT/AOL/4sure could check every email being sent by someone to check for it being spam or not. How would they know it's not a genuine mailshot that's part of normal business?

So, what happened to this particular spammer. I found it so funny, I actually looked up the domain technical contact and sent them an email about it. It turned out the emails had been sent via an over eager new sales agent they had. Full marks for effort, no marks for approach. They were going to educate the sales agent on why not to buy email address lists off the internet.

*I used ISP as a fairly generic term. 4surehosting host web pages but also carry email for the domains. So, even though you use BT for your internet connection, 4surehosting could be carring your businesses email and not BT. At Roots, we use BT for our broadband connection but all of our email is routed through our own dedicated web server. Therefore our email never touches a BT mail server and if ever we move broadband supplier we won't need to change our email settings. :::

May be it's just my warped mind, but I find it funny seeing spam promoting virus scanning that is processed by a third party declaring virus scanning is a service not included their hosting package.