Odd pointless spam

Not that spam ever has much of a point for me, beside being a huge bother, but it usually does serve some purpose for the spammer. They want to get people to buy stuff from them. Or they want to con people into thinking they’re buying stuff from them while shelling out money for nothing. But it servers a purpose, and the spam message has some way for the recipient to get in touch with the spammer to give him (or her, women can spam just as well as men can) the money.

And yet over the last couple of weeks I received two types of trackback spam1 that did not fit into the mold. They were, from the sender’s perspective, totally pointless. Or at least appeared to be so, though there may be possible explanations for each.

One kind were a couple of messages with links pointing to the official SPAM site. The site of Hormel’s Foods Corporation, who are making SPAM for many more years than those annoying unsolicited sales messages are running around. And who have nothing to do with spamming.

In fact, they’re so not amused by the whole different meaning their product name obtained, that it’s clearly not possible that those were… Spam about SPAM.

It wasn’t theirs, but it pointed to them. Pointless.

It could have been someone’s idea of a joke, sending SPAM spam. I can see the humour. What I can’t see is investing the necessary resources, and going through all the bother. Because those message were, by all technical purposes, spam. Someone had to either get a list of blogs from somewhere, or set up random guesses and searches. And someone had to dedicate computers (Those trackbacks came from two seemingly unrelated IP addresses, meaning from two probably far away computers) to go and post trackbacks on them. It’s spamming technique with spamming tech. And is technically spamming as far as any possibly related laws would look at it.

The second type of trackback spam was more popular, and I received more of those. They started at a high rate, but very quickly (before I disabled trackbacks) slowed to a trickle of once a day, and then disappeared.

They all came from different IP addresses as well, spread all over the US. They seemed to target posts that included the word trackback, or just the word back in the title. So someone was especially trying to target trackback spam at people discussing trackbacks. Go figure.

These ones were more complex, the URIs they used were written as if to different pages, that contained in the address words from the post they were trackbacked (can I verb that?) to.

But all those links, from all those trackbacks, were worthless. Because the site, under which all the pointers went to, was down. Just a general notice from a hosting company that this is an unused domain and is on parking. Nothing there.

So why go through the effort (and with this amount of different IP addresses it may have been a bot net of zombie computers, so somebody invested work and money on this) just to point people to pages that don’t exist, on a site that doesn’t exist, where they can’t make any money out of it?

Although here I have not one, but two, possible yet unlikely explanations.

The first is that this is some sort of whacko tech evangelist trying to warn everyone about the dangers of trackbacks. This would explain the targeting of posts talking about trackbacks, but is pretty stupid otherwise. Usually even the crazies in those minor tech battles are better civilized than that, and don’t invest more than a lot of typing time.

The other option is that this was some sort of busted operation. Maybe the site was live, and real, at some point. Some law enforcement agency may have caught them. Or someone may have complained to their host who decided to shut their site down (Though not likely, I’d expect that these people would usually have their own servers and won’t depend on hosting).

But given the amount of spammers out there, and how little is done about the large majority of them, I don’t buy that either. I didn’t find (Though didn’t look too hard) anything about that, or them, anywhere else, except for similar trackbacks from the same date range. So this would have had to have been one quick operation. Nobody closes down spammers so quickly, ever. Not without it making headlines. All of that spam was sent and posted when the site was already dead.

Most peculiar.

1. Here’s the ultra-quick explanation of what trackback spam is: Trackbacks are a feature on many blogs that allows another blogger to signal that they have a post on their own blog which is relevant to the trackbacked post. This appears on the target post, in a manner similar to a reader’s comment, and includes a link to the second blog post. This allows several people, on several blogs, to keep a discussion on a same subject and keep everyone notified that they posted on the issue. A sort of easy version of going and manually writing an “I wrote about that too” comment. And as everything else, this is used by spammers, who post trackbacks that point to their own sordid sales pages instead of to anything relevant to the post they’re putting the trackbacks on.

2 Responses to “Odd pointless spam”

  1. int-bum says:

    SPAM stands for

    Stupid
    Pointless
    Annoying
    Message

    It sounds stupid, pointless, and annoying. So in the general meaning of the word…it adds up.
    Goodbye,
    Int-Bum

  2. Post author comments:

    Hi,

    The point was that it’s pointless from the point of view of the sender. It’s always annoying and pointless from the recipient’s side (Except for those idiots who actually think they’re getting good offers).
    But the spammers don’t do it for fun, or out of malice, they do it for profit. The links usually point somewhere giving you a way to give money to the spammers by buying something from them (or by them scamming you). That’s the point of sending spam, from the sender’s view. But if the spam message doesn’t provide any way for the spammer to make money out of it, well, pointless.

    And yes, that acronym is pretty fitting, even if it’s only a retrospective invention and not the original meaning.

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