Monday, July 09, 2007

Spam wars

SPAM celebrated its 70th birthday last week, being almost as old as me. Homel's spiced ham loaf has sometimes been uncharitably called "a gelatinous pork brick." Mind you, I ate enough of it during the Second World War, and apparently the stuff is still wildly popular in some parts of the world. I'm told the Japanese write haikus to SPAM: "Perfection uncanned/ Like a beautiful redhead/ Fresh from her trailer." Hormel is understandably upset that the name of their beautiful pink meat has -- by way of Monty Python -- been appropriated for unwanted e-mail, and fights any computer filter company that uses "spam" in the name of its product.

Is it just me or has there been a explosion of spam in recent weeks? The usual enticements for drugs, penis patches, cheap loans, and discounted electronics (all presumably scams), but also more sophisticated phishing expeditions, with messages mimicking the Bank of America, Amazon, PayPal and Hallmark e-cards. All particularly annoying on dial-up. Surely this stuff clogs up the net, and the cost to the international economy must be staggering.

What's to be done? No, we don't want government screening our e-mail (although they are probably doing enough of that already). Where then are the clever young hackers who can take vigilante action on the part of the rest of us, track the spammers down to their sleazy electronic lairs, and infect their computers and servers with mortal pathogens? Illegal? There is not a court in the land that will convict them.