Get Even! In a 24 hour period starting at 10: A.M. this past
Tuesday, and ending at the same time on Wednesday, I received
1,734 pieces of spam email. Now these were all unique addresses,
and some had 4 or 5 copies.
I have had it with this nonsense. Looking at the email
addresses, it was obvious that mine were being harvested from
There is software, similar to the protocol used by the search
engines, that allows someone to enter keywords, and it will
search the web for any web site that matches the keywords
entered. It will then capture any email addresses it finds. An
example of such software is “Atomic Harvester”.
I downloaded this software, which is fully functional in its
search capabilities, and is free if that is all you want. You
cannot however, save the addresses it finds unless you pay for
it. Not wishing to harvest any addresses from the web, I chose
the free version, as step one of my devious plan, so I could see
what the spamsters would find when they harvest my site.
Step two was a bit more work. Instead of simply deleting the
spam, I created a filter with my email reader that automatically
sends all spam identified to my trash bin. I use Eudora, which
makes this a rather easy task, but was still time consuming.
While this won’t provide a “spam free” inbox, it will cut down
on the junk one has to wade through. The rest I simply delete,
which also goes to the trash bin.
Now, I have all this spam in once place – my trash bin. But
wait, I said get even. A good friend of mine is proficient in
the “Perl” programming language. He wrote a program that goes
into my trash bin, and extracts all of the “From” email
addresses it finds. Now I have a file of all the return
addresses of anyone who sends me spam.
The majority of the professional spammers use a forged address,
which if you respond to it, is returned as undeliverable. Some
of the naïve newbies use a legitimate address.
I then put all of the addresses in a file on a web page with an
invisible link to it – let’s call it the “Trash Page”. If you
visit my site, you will never see it. But, a spammer using
harvesting software will hit that page. They will harvest each
and every address that I loaded onto that page.
Thinking they hit a bonanza, all those unduplicated addresses
will be captured by them. Now, two things will happen. First,
all the forged addresses on the list that they send to, will be
returned to them as undeliverable, causing them extra work to
clean their lists.
Second, all the spam received from a legitimate address, will be
on the lists of all the spamsters, and they will get their “just
Eventually, the pros will figure out what I have done, and will
block the web page that houses them. But that is not my goal. I
started putting those invisible links to that “Trash Page”, on a
number of my web pages. Now, they can’t just block a particular
page, but will have to block my entire domain. Great – now I
won’t have all the addresses on my site being harvested by these
If this idea snowballs, and I hope it does, a major percentage
of all the email addresses being sold by “email list providers”
will be worthless. You might think about this if you are ever
tempted to purchase their “thousands of email addresses” for
The spam problem is not going to go away in the foreseeable
future. If webmasters took the steps I have taken, it just might
go away sooner. Anyone who sends me an unsolicited email,
advertising their “latest and greatest, will wind up on this
If you want to participate in this project, send an email to
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org – please include the URL
for your web site. (I want to make sure you are legitimate, and
not a spamster on a “fishing expedition”)
Note – to participate, you must be able to upload web pages to