“SPAM”, the STD of cyberlife…

February 24, 2012

..we don’t have to “Opt Out” of being burglarized, so why…..?

Gone are the days when I could amuse myself by sending trash back to “junk mailers” in their own postage-paid return envelopes. The advent of e-mail “spam” presents an entirely alien set of challenges for most of us. I suspect, distasteful as it may seem, that we must accept that “spam” is a profitable enterprise of giddy proportions largely because of our own laziness and naïveté

It really is quite simple, but most do not understand that Behavioral Science principles straight out of Psych 101 tend to do us in from the git-go. If you put a stake in the center of a path, a statistically significant number of people will simply walk around it. Precious few will question why it is there in the first place, and even fewer will go to the trouble to remove it. That, combined with our innate desire to gain without cost and achieve without effort, not to mention the pervasive belief that complete strangers with poor spelling and pre-school grammar skills really have devoted their lives to sprinkling flower petals along our aimless paths, practically guarantee our willing cooperation ‘til the end of time.

I am certainly not immune to such demands of human nature, and it is only by the grace of my somewhat hair-triggered temper and mulish tenacity for negative behaviors once the kinetic energy is unleashed that I occasionally attempt to strike back.

I sometimes remind myself of a poster I recall from many years ago in which the observer is positioned at ground level looking skyward to a rapidly descending eagle, its open talons a nanosecond from snagging a defiant mouse, middle finger extended, that stands back to the observer and facing the eagle.

Nevertheless, I remain unapologetic and unembarrassed by the more than likely impotent nature of my resistance to being assimilated.

It only takes a moment of carelessness and a single error of judgment to become road-kill on the internet highway, and once you are in the system your essence is distributed and redistributed to the ends of the known universe. Not only do the spammers profit from the occasional target that responds with cash instead of curses, but they sell and resell their “mailing lists” to each other.

Since I can’t stuff postage paid return envelopes to do my Defiant Mouse impersonation in response to “junk Email”, I have started forwarding EVERY unwelcome solicitation to spam@uce.gov and phishing-report@us-cert.gov, even though they are generally there for the purpose of dealing with the notorious Nigerian money laundering scams and the like. My rationale is that, while not all annoying “spam” is of the ilk that probe for opportunities to steal identities and assets, all “spam” is undeniably annoying and steals my privacy and time.

We seem to be living in an age of “Opt Out” morality whereby everybody is fair game until they “opt out” of being such. The trick, or at least a portion of it, is that one essentially has to voluntarily bypass their own anti-spam software and open the unsolicited missives in order to access the opportunity to “opt out”. As I communicated to my anti-virus software provider, I don’t have to “opt out” of having my house burglarized, so it doesn’t seem right that I should have to “opt out” of this kind of intrusion either. The analogical possibilities are infinite, but so is the competitive nature of man. Unfortunately, though most are satisfied with expressing that drive by overcoming generally accepted physical and intellectual challenges, there remain the inevitable few who must pick the latest pickproof lock or parse the most exacting of rules and regulations for arguably tacit permission to do pretty much whatever they damned well please.

It will be a sad day when government finally rolls up its sleeves and castrates the internet with bodies of law and oceans of regulations, but I fear it may be inevitable. I admire the wizard geeks who know their way around cyberspace and apply their skills to wreak positive mischief. I keep wishing some of them would develop tactics for “spamming” the spammers into some eddy of self immolation.


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