Roundup of Lycos’s Make Love Not Spam

An interesting idea: Seti@Home-style harrasment of spammers. Don’t bother trying to download it. Lycos has removed it in the face of criticism, much of it ignorant and undeservedly harsh.

Now that’s it’s moot, let’s examine some interesting aspects of this case…

1. TRUST Should we really trust someone like Lycos to pull this off? You’d need to trust them if you’re going to let them install software on your PC that makes connections to websites that of their choosing.

2. AUTHORITY On the one hand, this is sheer vigilantism, and it should be left for the Proper Authorities. But on the other hand, who are the proper authorities? Governments? A loose coalition of ISPs? Spamhaus? Microsoft?

3. DENIAL OF SERVICE? Since this was announced, we’ve seen plenty of breathless "comment" to the effect that Lycos Europe is DDOS’ing spammers, referring to the hacker tendency to perform a "Distributed Denial Of Service" attack on those whom they dislike. Lycos Europe’s position is that the cooperative screensaver system monitors the response times of the webservers, endeavouring to throttle the hits sent so as not to shut them down. Not to mention not shutting down other, legitimate sites hosted on the same servers.

4. SPAMVERTISERS NOT SPAMMERS Rich Kulawiec was recently quoted as saying that, "Spammers have an unlimited supply of [bandwidth] at zero cost," and that the Lycos project, "Reflects a stunning ignorance of reality." We disagree. The point is to eat up the bandwidth allowance of spamvertised websites. This will either quickly shut them down, or cost the spammers a lot of money in additional hosting charges.

Spamvertised websites do not have "an infinite amount of bandwidth". You shouldn’t confuse websites with spammers’ MTAs, which these days are mostly botnets of zombie PCs owned by innocent consumers.

5. LEGALITY/MORALITY While the writer of this ZD Comment piece may have a point about legality and morality, which we can debate until the cows come home, the technical angles of the piece are dubious at best.

6. TIT FOR TAT Rich Smith at The Motley Fool points out that ISPs are working feverishly, blacklisting Lycos Europe to prevent their screensaver from working (or even being downloaded). Do ISPs work this hard to blacklist spammers?

One Comment

  1. David Via
    Posted December 5, 2004 at 5:20 PM | Permalink

    All that said, it does seem a bit like the definition of a DDOS attack lies in the eye of the beholder doesn’t it? If that hadn’t been the widespread perception, Lycos probably wouldn’t have pulled the screensaver… 😉

  2. Posted December 6, 2004 at 5:29 AM | Permalink

    Distributed, yes. But denial of service? I have to say no. Mainly because Lycos made such a big thing of how it was monitoring the response times of the sites.

One Trackback

  1. By Richi'blog on December 6, 2004 at 5:12 AM

    Lycos gives up

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. To comment, first join our community.