Lycos’ Anti-Spam Screensaver: Fleeting Revenge is not the Answer

Lycos Europe this week introduced a controversial weapon in the fight against spam: a screensaver that attacks spam Web sites. Lycos’ “Make Love, Not Spam” screensaver software is designed to use a PC’s spare CPU cycles to flood Web sites that are advertised in those annoying spam messages for things like Rolex watches, Viagra, or basement-low mortgage rates.

News source: InfoWorld As good as it feels to strike back at those who benefit from the spam blight, this relief is only momentary and personal. Even if your screensaver joins hands with thousands of others to overwhelm the spam site, the screensaver cannot legally bring down the Web sites. Furthermore is does not provide any technological solution for stopping spam.

According to Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research, a market research firm specializing in messaging technology, a big risk with the Lycos’ approach is the problem of false positives.

“I am leery of going on the offense against spammers because it can backfire, particularly with the potential for misidentifying a spammer and targeting a legitimate site,” he said.

Osterman agreed that while the “Make Love, Not Spam” offering may draw much attention to the problem, it doesn’t offer an answer to spam.

“This is sort of a visceral reaction to [spam]. You hit me and I’ll hit you back. I don’t think it is a long term solution or even a short term solution for that matter. But it certainly is interesting. I’ve not heard of this being done before in an organized way,” Osterman said.

Reports have surfaced that Lycos’ Web site was hacked last night by spammers in retaliation.

However, a Lycos Europe spokesperson denied that its site had been hacked, claiming that the company was victim of a hoax. The Lycos Europe spokesperson said someone mocked up a screen shot of the hacked site and forwarded it via e-mail.


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