The Changing World Geography of Spam

By James Fallows

I've mentioned several times before -- eg here, here, and here -- the miracle of having nearly all the spam in my Gmail account show up in Russian, Cyrillic alphabet and all.

Now, it's Portugal's turn! From my Gmail spam folder just now (click for larger and more legible).

PortugueseSpam.png

I realize that what I'm seeing is not some measure of an intrinsic Russian or Portuguese or perhaps Brazilian propensity to spam. Instead it's a momentary arbitrage indication -- a sign that, for today, one spam sender's tricks are a step ahead of the ever-evolving spam filter algorithms. (And, interestingly, we're seeing the messages that are plausible enough to make their way into the user's spam folder, not those that are rejected by bulk-filtering systems earlier in the process.) Still, it reminds me of the ham radio era of yesteryear, when it would be exciting to hear some broadcaster from Newfoundland or Guatemala.

Two other thoughts: the Portuguese spammers could work a little harder on their subject lines. And, I do miss the Nigerians.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/10/the-changing-world-geography-of-spam/64532/