Screen Savers to Counter-Attack Spam

Now this is interesting. From The Guardian:

Spammers may be about to get a taste of their own medicine. A British company is today launching software that it claims will allow computer users to hit back at the mass mailers who clog up our inboxes with sales pitches for pornography, get-rich-quick schemes and cheap medication.

Lycos UK is offering free screensavers designed to counter-attack the junk emailers by turning their own techniques against them.

Entitled, somewhat confusingly, Make Love, Not Spam, the campaign aims to harness the coordinated power of under-occupied computers and bombard blacklisted sites with streams of email requests which will slow down targeted addresses and interfere with their business.

Similar methods have been used for scientific challenges which require enormous computing capacity, such as finding a cure for cancer or sifting through the data gathered by Seti, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

This is believed to be the first time the principle of distributed computing, which harnesses the power of computers while they are idle, has been employed against antisocial behaviour online.

You can download the program from Lycos.co.uk but as of right now, the Make Love Not Spam section seems to be down. The article really doesn’t mention how it goes about combatting spam other than it will target what sites benefit from the spam. My guess is that it is some type of distributed denial of service attack against these websites. Good try Lycos but it won’t work in the long run. I don’t even think it is a good idea by trying to counter-attack spam by simply creating more traffic, even if it is intended to give the spammers a taste of their own medicine. I guess I will stick with my Seti@Home.

I am curious to see what everyone else thinks about this.

Update:
From ZDNet Australia:

Spammers hack Lycos’ anti-spam Web site

Lycos on Tuesday kicked off its “make love not spam” campaign by offering users a screensaver that helps to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on spammers’ Web sites. The company said the screensaver uses the idle processing power of a computer to slow down the response times from spammers’ Web sites – much in the same way spammers use compromised PCs to distribute unsolicited e-mail messages.

However, within hours of the makelovenotspam.com site being launched, the original front page was replaced with a simple message:

“Yes, attacking spammers is wrong. You know this, you shouldn’t be doing it. Your IP address and request have been logged and will be reported to your ISP for further action.”

F-Secure reported that the Web site had returned to normal by around 6am (Sydney time) but at the time of writing makelovenotspam.com is unavailable and could be under a retaliatory DDoS attack.

My feelings about this whole thing is that I hate spammers with a passion however I am not too thrilled having my computer used to coordinate a DDoS attack against a server who I am not 100% sure is really spamming people or not. (Nevermind that I am not even sure that this is legal). Good try Lycos but I am not quite ready to become a spammer to get rid of spammers.


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