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Return to Sender

Sometimes the victim of a spam attack isn't the person who receives the email but an innocent bystander. When a spammer forges a Reply-To header, all the bouncebacks and negative feedback are sent to victims rather than the spammer. Most recipients of these spam messages mistakenly direct their anger and frustration at the wrong target.

Case Study 6-5

Nancy came into work and started her email client. It was taking a long time to start up and Nancy was late for a meeting, so she left it on and headed off to her status meeting. When she returned, she saw something on her screen she had never seen before: 2,191 email messages in her inbox. Nancy didn't realize she could have that much email in her inbox at one time. Most of the messages seemed to have the same subject line: “RE: How to get filthy rich in just 2 weeks!!!” Nancy figured it was a major spam attack, but when she looked at some of the emails, they didn't look like any spam she had ever seen.

Many of the emails were automated responses that indicated why the recipient hadn't received the email. These reasons included the inbox being full, the user not having an active account, or the server having a communication problem.

Nancy also discovered a group of emails stating, in extremely derogatory terms, what the recipients thought of Nancy, her lineage, and the spam she was peddling. Finally, there were a few orders for a get-rich-quick brochure that included people's names, addresses, and credit card numbers.

For some reason, all these people seemed to think that Nancy had sent this spam, even though she had never done anything like this. Nancy hoped the problem would go away. She didn't want to know what would happen if she kept getting that many email messages every day.



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