[Beowulf] Apologies for the spam/virus yesterday

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Thu Feb 9 08:32:46 PST 2006

On Thu, 9 Feb 2006, Douglas Eadline wrote:

> I would hate to see this resource change into another form. It truly
> is an *incredibly valuable resource* with a high signal to noise ratio and
> virtually spam free - thanks Don.
> I would also be willing to bet that the collective minds of this
> list can figure out a way to keep it intact. Whether it be
> more automated control or the assistance of some trusted
> members to do the "Turing Test" work.

THERE'S a good use for a cluster -- let's put an AI genetically
optimized neural net and some fuzzy logic into SpamAssassin, run it on a
small cluster and turn it loose on Spam.  Retrain the network and
ruleset once a week on random samplings of the finest Spam (and
non-Spam) that the world has to offer those of us who sit at the bottom
of the Victoria Falls with it crashing down around our ears until it can
discriminate with <0.001% false positive OR negative rates.  Make the
updated rules available as a service on a website.  Keep the training
algorithm and GA optimizer a Secret, so that all the Spammers have to
work on is the EMPIRICAL action of the discriminating tool, and so that
they cannot devise a form of stealth Spam that the network is incapable
of being trained not to discriminate from non-Spam (something that is
really pretty simple, I imagine).

We could sell such a tool.  Hell, we could SELL the updates and make
money on them.  We could create an aftermarket for so-called
"competitors" who would really make money closing holes we fairly
deliberately left in our primary tool and thus avoid possible anti-trust
actions.  With the obvious information we can collect on the users of
the tool, we can even manage to figure out how to legally use our
cluster to email introductory free offers to everybody in the Universe
that uses it, offers that are hotwired straight through the
discriminator!  We can make big bucks selling companies these hotwired
holes or advertisements that pop up while the tool does its work
blocking everybody ELSE's spam, even include hooks that would permit
companies to put "free trial versions" of software products directly
onto your system without your knowledge (or pester you until you
accidentally enable them to be installed while trying to shut the damn
nag function off -- a few confusing menu options should do the trick --
its always worked in the past) and then have them magically regenerate
every time a hapless user tries to delete them unless they are
sufficiently brilliant to be able to perform low level surgery without
lobotomizing their entire system.  Under the guise of "controlling" spam
and viruses, we could in fact >>co-opt<< the entire market forces that
drive them to our OWN profit and turn them into just "the way things
work", burdens to be born as the price of using the tool, just like
Industry cleverly managed with Television with the active collusion of
the FCC, only this time with the Internet.

Oh, wait, Microsoft already did that.

Never mind.


(Feeling a bit random today, I guess:-)

> --
> Doug
>> After having a near-perfect record of keeping out spam and virus
>> email, one slipped through yesterday.
>> It's a good example of why mailing lists can't be auto-moderated.
>> The current elaborate system requires heavy human moderation, and this
>> message still slid past everything and was automatically approved.
>> The message appeared to come from a subscribed user, so it passed the
>> first check.  (This is actually common: spammers and viruses use pairs of
>> addresses from the same source, so evil mail is likely to come from
>> someone you have heard of.)
>> The message passed both ClamAV and SpamAssasin (although a compressed
>> zip file should have triggered something).  It didn't have any of the
>> keywords that are configured in Mailman's "hold" rules.  And finally, that
>> user was approved for auto-post for messages that passed all of the
>> previous rules.
>> Please keep this event in mind before you complain that your message was
>> held for moderation.  95-99% (depending on the day) of inbound mail to the
>> mailing lists is immediately discarded as obvious viruses and spam.
>> Only very low scoring mail from approved subscribers is eligible for
>> auto-approval  The rest is held for manual moderation. Only about 2% of
>> those held messages are valid postings.  That means about 50 messages
>> manually discarded for each manually approved posting.  And except for a
>> few weeks scattered over the history of the list, I've been the sole or
>> primary moderator.
>> The bottom line is that we are considering a message board format to
>> replace the mailing list.  It would have required logins to
>> post, and retroactive moderation to delete advertising and trolls.
>> Any opinions?
>> --
>> Donald Becker				becker at scyld.com
>> Scyld Software	 			Scyld Beowulf cluster systems
>> 914 Bay Ridge Road, Suite 220		www.scyld.com
>> Annapolis MD 21403			410-990-9993
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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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