Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Must Be Living in a Parallel Universe, Then

It's Sunday morning, and I'm having my morning coffee while getting ready for a long session of editing my OpenCON presentation. By working on adapting the presentation tailored to the tutorial I've been rediscovering just how much work went into making the book, so a long Sunday session is needed, if not more.

Then courtesy of Groklaw's news picks comes the USA today piece called Despite filters, tidal wave of spam bears down on e-mailers.

A tidal wave of spam, no less. Well, we're seeing a lot of attempts at sending, like the sequence here (text link, formatting it would take too long) that I captured from the xterm running a tail -f on my spamd log a little while back. That sequence tells me, for one thing, that the naive spambot thinks my spamd looks like an open relay.

The other interesting thing about the sequence there is the pattern you can see in the From: addresses. It may have dawned on some of the spammers that generating random addresses in other people's domains might end up poisoning their own well, so they started introducing patterns to be able to weed out their own made up addresses from their lists. I take that as a confirmation that our harvesting and republishing efforts here and elsewhere have been working rather well.

Here the method seems to be that they take the victim domain name, prepend "dw" and append "m" to make up the local part and then append the domain, so starting from we get

There is one other common variation on that theme, where the prepend string is "lin" and the append string is "met", producing addresses like, used just a few minutes ago to try to spam from the apparently Polish adress This is of course very interesting, as is the fact that right now about two and a half thousand machines are in my spamd-greytrap list . That's where they end up, making no waves at all.

On the subject of patterns, earlier this month the address started appearing frequently enough that it caught my attention in my greylist dumps and log files.

The earliest contact as far as I can see was at Nov 10 14:30:57, trying to spam from (apparently a France Telecom customer). The last attempt seems to have been ten days later, at Nov 20 15:20:31, from the Swedish machine

My logs show me that during that period 6531 attempts had been made to deliver mail from via, from 35 different IP addresses, to 131 different recipients in our domains. Those recipients included three deliverable addresses, mine or aliases I receive mail for. None of those attempts actually succeeded, of course. With a little more time on my hands I'm sure I could have made a good regular expression to calculate to the second how much time those spam senders wasted here, too.

So where's the tidal wave? Back when PDF spam was the new horror, it actually took three weeks for one to reach me, and then only via an alias on a machine I really don't have much control over anymore. The number of spam sending machines does seem to be increasing, though.

Bob Beck's uatraps list is a good indicator, and the tendency is clear from the graph in my malware paper. The number did dip just below 100,000 addresses earlier this month, and it now seems to have stabilized in the 110,000 to 120,000 range.

From my perspective, it looks like a reasonably configured spamd is really all we need to observe the tidal wave at a safe distance and have fun all the while.

It's almost like living in a parallel universe.