Spamfoolery: Stupid is as Stupid Does Edition

Sauron-e1348474315182In this edition of Spamfoolery, we uncover the all-seeing eye of Sauron to take a sobering look at the state of intelligent thought in the spam world. Hold onto your boots. This one is not for the sense of humor challenged.

Each Sunday, I write my blog post, and while my mind’s always thinking about what I’ll be writing this coming week, I don’t really consciously come up with anything salient until Sunday morning itself rolls around. Sitting with my first cup of coffee, I browse the spam news and discover what nefarious new exploits the scumbags (spambags? I don’t know, it has a nice ring to it) are unleashing on the world; and in the course of that haphazard process, something shakes loose.

This week was no exception as the spam gods smiled upon me once again. This morning, I checked my email to discover that one of my former students sent me messages in Twitter. A nice fellow this former student, I instantly recognized the messages as Twitter intercepts…clearly, his Twitter account has been compromised and, wouldn’t you know it? As I’m writing these words, another message just came through. All the messages are the standard crap one expects from spammers: “you too can be three inches taller,” “The most defiant fillies [sic] will strive for riding your new big Italian stallion” (Seriously, that’s a real one. For more, look here), “I saw your wife naked with the village idiot last week, check pictures here,” “I know what you did last summer…” Okay, that last one may have come from a movie, but you get the point.

In the case of my former student, a clear tip-off – beside the apparent lunacy of his messages – was a common factor: a Russian URL at the end of each message. Now, I may be cozied up in the Great White North of Eastern Canada, but the northern climate is my only connection to Moscow. Well, maybe that and I like Borscht, but those are the only two similarities. Vodka too, but those are the only three similarities. Solzhenitsyn, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, those funny dancing bears, Anna Kournikova…ah hell. Look, as the crow flies, Russia is 5,000 miles due east, okay?

So receiving these messages (you can see them above), I was forced to wonder, once again, just how stupid these spammers think I am – and by association, just how stupid they must be. Anyone following my blog knows exactly what I think of spammers, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I have an extremely low regard for these scum-of-the-earth, little-old-granny-scamming, make-my-inbox-flood-with-pure-crap-on-a-daily-basis, I-wouldn’t-pee-on-them-if-they-were-engulfed-in-flames, scam artists. Try saying that ten times fast.

All this ire forced me to consider, once again, whether spammers really are stupid, or whether they just act stupidly. Once again, I came up with a frustrating answer: it’s all of the above and everything in between. Yes, spammers are stupid and yes, they are wily, calculating and yes, even intelligent. Confused yet? Me too.

Look, it would be so much easier if we could simply write them off as being morons, and the bulk of the spam email sent each day would give any jury an easy way out when deliberating whether these guys are guilty of being just plain dumb. It would be so much easier going to bed each night knowing that we had nothing to fear from these jerks. Reality, however, is a harsh mistress, and the simple fact is they’re not as dumb as we want them to be.

Spam IQ, Anyone?

With that in mind, I set out to categorize the spammers in the best possible way I could imagine: the Spam IQ test. Like the widely-criticized Intelligence Quotient, there’s no real science to it, but it is fun to consider. So, without further ado:

Spam IQ Score IQ Equivalent Explanation Frequency
79 and under Borderline deficiency/feeble-mindedness These spammers are so mind-numbingly stupid that when they contact you they provide their real name and number and give you their financial information. 5% of all spammers
80 to 109 Dullness/average intelligence These spammers have two brain cells to rub together, just enough to try to convince you that Microsoft is calling about your infected computer. 85% of all spammers
110 to 140 Superior/very superior intelligence Mostly phishers, when they come a knockin’, you want to take out your credit card. 10% of all spammers
Over 140 Genius They don’t even need to contact you. You just send money. 0% of all spammers


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