Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Spider's Belch

Okay, I admit it: I have what even I consider to be an unnatural obsession with internet spam, and though I had been fighting with considerable success of late to resist, the temptations are just too great. Internet spam is, metaphorically, an intricately woven spider's web, at the center of which a deadly predator awaits. My fascination with it stems from the fact that while I can understand a fly or insect getting caught in a spider’s web, I simply cannot comprehend how human beings can become ensnared by spam. Those who do so because of their own greed deserve to get caught, and I have no pity for them. But far too many innocent people…the decent though incredibly naive and gullible…are also ensnared, and this infuriates me.

While spiders and their webs are a part of the balance of nature—the the predator takes the victim’s life in order to survive itself—internet spammers have no such logical reason to exist. Their only motive is greed, and like the spider stalking the fly, they do so without conscience, morals, or compassion.

The creators of spam are, all evidence to the contrary, not totally stupid. But they don't have to be smart. They are predators. They may have about the same I.Q. as a black widow spider, but they spin their webs with the same determination and for the same purpose. And they know if they make their webs large enough (something the vast size of the internet makes relatively easy to do) they’re bound to catch something. 

Let us take one single, all-too-typical spam message/web and lay it out upon the examining table to dissect it, piece by piece. First, here is the message in its entirety:

Order Request
Thanks for your continous response to our email and your diligent work in getting our order supplied, we have three other suppliers and at  we have to select only one. Register your company profile on our supplier Portal and fill  the datasheet after logging in.           
 Click to download
Thanks for your cooperation
  Hussein Safwan
Purchase Manager

The first thing we observe is a “Second Coming”-size boldface “Order Request,” a much smaller font used here, implying that what follows is of vital importance. That it not only not important but makes absolutely no sense is irrelevant. (Does “order request” mean they asking you to place an order, or are they referring to an order that has, supposedly, already been placed? No matter.)  

“Company profile”? What company? Do you have a company? They hope the fact that they apparently assume you do will let you make one up. “Supplier Portal”? “Log in”?

How the recipient…any recipient…can so totally set aside everything they have ever known or felt about logic and the fact that not one single thing in the entire message makes even an iota of sense is totally beyond my comprehension. 

“Thanks for your continous  [sic.] response to our email…” One might wonder, if one were the wondering kind, which the spammer counts on the recipient’s not being, how one can “continuously” respond to a single email which the recipient knows full well was  never sent in the first place? They either feel safe in assuming the recipient is not smart enough to remember that he/she has never in fact heard from these people before, or that they will find the dangled carrot irresistible.

Of course the spammer depends heavily on the recipient’s duplicity in blatantly obvious illegal schemes…spiriting large sums of money out of the spammer’s supposed country, for example, or claiming to be related to someone the recipient has never heard of in order to “claim the deceased’s inheritance,” etc. It is the (intended) impression that the recipient is somehow getting away with something even the slightest degree of conscience would declare unethical that makes the prospect exciting.

All leading you to the spider in the center of the web. “Click to download data sheet” in big, bold letters. Click and they have you. You are doomed.

The note is signed by “Hussein Safwan,” an exotic-sounding name that is sure to instill confidence. And we learn that Mr. Safwan is a “Purchase Manager.” Did it occur to the recipient—you—to wonder  what he purchases, or for whom he works? Who cares? You...and you can be sure your money...are toast. 

Now all you have to do is to sit back and wait for the spider to belch. But you won’t be around to hear it.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (

1 comment:

Kage Alan said...

It's okay, D. Your fascination with internet spam is equal to my fascination with Blu-Ray. At least your collection is digital. Mine takes up space.