From: (Paul Phillips)
Subject: Re: Is PED lying? (Was: From TIME: Elmer-DeWitt Gets Spammed)
Date: 16 Mar 1996 10:13:12 GMT

(Posted and emailed.)

In article [] (Philip Elmer-DeWitt) writes:
>About a day's work, spread out over a week. But I've learned a lot--like
>the marvelous unsub * (netwide command. Next time I'll do better.
>BTW, got a call from Rush Limbaugh yesterday. Apparently his was one
>CompuServe addresses that got hit with the same E-mailbomb.

I hope the two of you realize that you could have some college student on hand to answer all your technical questions, for a pittance.

I'm serious. When confronted with superior technology, is it so unreasonable to suggest that you call someone and say, "What do I do?" To me, this seems vastly preferable to firing off an article about it before researching it.

Really, was it wise to admit how little you knew about mailing lists to mumble-million readers, when you could have acquired all the necessary knowledge in the time it took you to fire off that sentence? Doesn't the senior technology editor of TIME want to appear at least a step or two ahead of his readership?

Or is it, as I sometimes suspect, that you believe people will identify more closely with semi-technical material if they feel it is nearly as mysterious to the author as it is to the reader? There's some terrible conclusion about the average psyche lurking there that I'm quite afraid to draw.



"I'll carry the Cyberporn albatross around my neck until the day I die."
    -- Philip Elmer-DeWitt

Subject: Re: From TIME: Elmer-DeWitt Gets Spammed
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 1996 10:36:28 GMT

In article [],
Philip Elmer-DeWitt wrote:
>I know how to filter mail from bozos, like you for instance. But how do
>you bounce mail sent from thousands of unique addresses to hundreds of
>different mailing lists?


Try this: (I'm far from an expert, so be warned): :)

* !^TOped@well\.com

This _should_ put everything except what's directly sent to to a file named "junk". Mailing lists usually go "To owner-" and then the list name, too, so you could filter on that.

That's a procmail recipe. It goes in ~/.procmailrc. You'll also need a ~/.forward, such as:

"|~doctor/bin/procmail -tf- || /usr/local/bin/new/procmail -t || exit 75 #tsalagi"

And you'll need stuff like this at the beginning of your .procmailrc, to set it up:

#Initialize FORMAIL variable:
   ? test -x /usr/local/nuglops/bin/formail
   { FORMAIL=/usr/local/nuglops/bin/formail }
   { FORMAIL=/u1/torin/bin/formail }


Adjust the paths to wherever the programs are on (The second FORMAIL= is in case the first one disappears or is unavailable for some reason. Never use any other shell other than /bin/sh).

You can get more, and better, help in comp.mail.misc.

Good luck.

From: Rahul Dhesi
Subject: Re: From TIME: Elmer-DeWitt Gets Spammed
Date: 12 Mar 1996 18:22:27 GMT
Organization: a2i network

In [] (Philip Elmer-DeWitt) writes:

>But how do
>you bounce mail sent from thousands of unique addresses to hundreds of
>different mailing lists?

(Ouch! In this case you are not supposed to bounce the messages. You are supposed to junk them.)

I will append below something I sent to com-priv. The most pertinent part begins with "I was once attacked by a mad list subscriber"...but all of it will be useful to readers.

===== begin saved message =====
Date:    Mon, 11 Mar 96 10:26:24 PST
From:    Rahul Dhesi 
Subject: Re: Stupid Net Tricks
References: (Philip Elmer-DeWitt) writes:

>I'm afraid, Bruce, that Netcom did not come out of this incident cloaked in
>glory. Not only was a spoofed Netcom address the source of the listserv
>spam (and not for the first time, my colleague Andrew Kantor tells me), but
>Netcom seems in several ways to have compounded the problem.  "Help me!"
>messages sent to went unanswered.  Commands to "unsub *
>(netwide" didn't take. And some netcom mailing lists (cyber-cafe and
>diabetes-talk come to mind) turn out to be utterly impervious to
>unsubscribe messages...

   Netcom hint:  The only way I know of to get their attention in a
   timely manner is to cross-post your complaint to netcom.general and
   some global newsgroup.  This will get their attention quickly.  It
   does not of course guarantee that they will actually do anything.

   Netcom has been providing connectivity to a company called
   SUNSETDIRECT (domain which repeatedly sends out
   mass amounts of junk email.  One major mass mailing used fake
   addresses in the domain of another innocent company (,
   thus diverting complaints to the innocent third party.  After many
   weeks of complaints from numerous people there has been zero visible
   response from Netcom.  (The sunsetdirect folks, however, have been
   emailing and posting legal threats to people who complain.)  For a
   brief description of events send any message to  You
   will get an autoreply.

I was once attacked by a mad list subscriber similar to the one who
struck you.  He was operating from Netcom.  He may well be the same
person.  My request to Netcom resulted about three weeks later in a
reply from some (persumably not very bright) person at Netcom who told
me it was impossible for somebody else to subscribe me to mailing
lists, since the list server took the subscription address from the
reply address, and that I must have accidentally (!) sent subscription

I added all the relevant list servers to my procmail filter. Since multiple list servers generate similar header lines, about ten lines in my .procmailrc file took care of about 98% of the list traffic. Then, with my mailbox reasonably clean again, I could unsubscribe at my leisure.

Surprisingly, I saw no mention of mail filtering in the TIME article that I saw posted.

Obligatory aside:

TIME readers are building up a very spotty picture of the online world. Let's imagine what they think Cyberspace looks like, metaphorically:

A big field with lots of stalls. Pornography of every kind is in pretty much all of them. Shady characters entice little children towards them with promises of candy, then hand them videotapes containing child pornography. In one corner a group of suspicious characters is plotting to subject the whole field to hate speech. Suddenly there is a shower of leaflets from a low-flying plane. "Mailing list attack! Mailing list attack!" yells everybody, ducking for cover. The leaflets land and knock people out -- they are made of lead, not paper! One valiant figure with a 'PED' emblem on his chest is seen at a telephone sending home the late-breaking news story. Neither pornography, no, nor mailing list attacks will keep him from his noble endeavor of Reporting the Ugly Truth! -- Rahul Dhesi [] "please ignore Dhesi" -- Mark Crispin [mrc@CAC.Washington.EDU] ===== end saved message =====

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