SPAM and Email Caller-ID, Part 2
& A Note on Net Neutrality
My last article talked about how to identify IP addresses hidden in that pesky SPAM. But the question is why would we be interested in the IP address. After all, the average PC user isn't really interested in what's under the hood of a computer anymore than what's under the hood of a car. We really want to turn them on and drive them; take them in for service as seldom as possible; and trade them in for next year's model. However, PCs haven't reached the same pinnacle of consumer commodity as the automobile. They still require the equivalent of the shade tree mechanic to keep them running reliably and efficiently.
So, we want to know about the IP addresses of SPAMMERs because? Well, IP addresses tell us from what part of the World Wide Neighborhood they come. Like caller ID they allow us a reality check between what an email says and what it really is. Those of you with PayPal accounts are familiar with the myriad of attempts over the years by Internet pirates to scam you into divulging your PayPal access with realistic looking pleas and warning to click on the link, sign into your account, and verify your identity. A rash of similar emails posing as various banking institutions have been circulating in recent months. They looked quite convincing. If only I had enough money to spread around to all of those institutions. A peak at the IP addresses showed that they came from a variety of sources, from around the world.
Unfortunately, I also followed one IP trail from an email scam to the banking institution it was posing as. I know it was a scam for two reasons. First, because the link embedded in the email ultimately sent me to India. Second, because I have never banked there, thankfully.
Sadly, at least one banking institution appears oblivious to the issue and has recently begun an email campaign aimed at soliciting additional services from me. Regrettably, the emails look and behave just like the pirate emails from PayPal. The difference is that they appear to be legitimate, right down to the “click here to log into your account” and the IP addresses. Attempts to legitimize this form of interaction lulls the uneducated Internet user into a false sense of security. Should someone start responding to these “legitimate Internet ads,” they might slip and do the same with a pirate version. Whose at fault? The non-savvy PC owner/account holder or the institution that created the environment under which such activity could flourish. I've written the institution to inquire as to who's senior moment birthed this marketing SNAFU. Unfortunately, this particular banking institution has a history of playing fast and loose with its customers, costing me, personally, more than a little anguish. My personal epiphany is that I need a new bank.
In my next article, I'll talk about how to put the knowledge of those IP addresses to work protecting you. This assumes, of course, that you've taken my advice and invested in a current installation of an Internet Security application.
One last note. I mentioned last November that Net Neutrality is in jeopardy. I also encouraged you to write your elected representatives by February to inquire on their positions with respect to the issue of Net Neutrality. It's not a topic that's gotten much press in recent months. With the steady decline of grass roots reporting due to the continuous contraction of the newspaper industry, the issue may not get too many more gasp for air. In 22 months, when the voluntary moratorium has expired, Net Neutrality will likely be dead and electronic toll booths erected, unless the United States Congress can be persuaded to legislate its permanent re-instatement. You may not notice the change at first. It will appear to you as if folks like us are just having a run of bad luck. Eventually, you'll forget about us because you won't be able to find or reach us anymore. We will have died a silent, collateral death with the demise of Net Neutrality.
Now, those folks in Washington have a lot on their plates. They've publicly stated they want to bring our boys and girls home. I can only hope that single proclamation is keeping each and every one of them in their congressional offices six days a week, and in church on Sundays. However, the reality is that we as individuals may lose our last and possibly most effective forum for democratic debate long before graver issues are resolved by our elected officials. Please write them.
"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to the end, requires some of the same courage which a soldier needs." - Ralph Waldo Emerson