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A Dispatch

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January 23, 2008

It's Greek To...Everyone

My BFFs know that I studied Latin and Greek in college—back in a time that seems almost as distant as the ancient civilizations, themselves. Although I can't imagine having studied any other subject, sadly the most practical application of that experience was that I sailed through reciting the Greek alphabet while a fraternity pledge.

But today, it also helped me recognize a spam message delivered in modern Greek (which my Mac rendered beautifully). There are differences between classical and modern Greek, but the alphabets are the same, and I can sound out the words to try to get a sense of what is going on.

But before getting to that, I have to say that the sender will probably get slapped by his ISP as soon as the spam reports start coming in. I don't recognize the sender, but one of my addresses appears to have been in an email address book that was wrung out to accumulate recipients. My copy of the message had 392794 recipient email addresses listed in plain view of the To: field (one of my pet peeves). This group accounted only for those addresses whose usernames began with "dakis" through "devilkins." Zeus knows how many of these batches went out. The majority of address domains were Greek (with the .gr country code top-level domain), but there were others that really point to an address book scrape (e.g., list owners of several Darwin-specific mailing lists at Apple, all in a row).

Attached to this email were no fewer than six files: one .jpg; one .rtf; one .pdf; and three .doc files. Microsoft Office and Acrobat files have been used as conveyances for malware, and you can bet your sweet souvlaki that Laocoön's paraphrased (and Virgilian) warning, "Beware Greeks bearing gifts," kept echoing through my head. I declined to open any of the attachments.

Another thing I didn't like about this message was that one of the few bits of English pointed to an official web site for whatever this thing was about. I don't know about you, but it's hard to ascribe gravitas to a sender whose "official site" is a MySpace page.

The end of this mystery was a bit of a let-down. The spammer appears to be a theatrical producer flogging his new production of one of Euripedes' plays. He's begging the world to schedule his production for the 2008-2009 season. Ugh. This sparks of someone who just discovered the Internet and intends to milk it for all its free advertising potential, including spamming from his own DSL connection.

Well-intentioned. Ill-informed. A tragedy not limited to the Greeks.

Posted on January 23, 2008 at 09:30 AM