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Inbox War, Sabu and ICANN

Juha Saarinen, Newsline Editor. 12 March 2012, 4:24 pm
Inbox War, Sabu and ICANN

Early this month, a spammy email went out. Unlike pro-spams, it was sent out with lots of addresses in the To: field and more in the Cc: field.

That happens often enough, usually when inexperienced PR agency staffers send out releases. However, what mustn't happen happened:

Someone got upset at being spammed, and replied to everyone with an angry Remove Me.

There were several out of office and trouble-ticket auto-responders amongst the addresses, and these dutifully replied to everyone too.  Some people decided that it would be a good idea to follow the first person's initiative, and replied to all with "Remove Me".

As there was nothing I could do to stop it, I just sat back and watched the emails, automated and from real people, pour in. The email avalanche lasted for five days, and I got messages from United Nations officials, government people, journalists, businesses, everyone imaginable from around the world.

People would get into their offices in the morning, open up their inboxes and quickly press Reply To All and type REMOVE ME with both fists as they were enraged over the huge amount of nonsensical messages.

Others pressed reply-all telling people politely, or in strong language, not to reply-all. If everyone stopped replying to everyone then the replies to everyone would stop. Now, I couldn't fault that logic, but the delivery of it seemed to make the problem worse.

One music publisher became really angry, and replied to all with "Stop sending this ****ing bull*** or get hacked!" That didn't work, so the music impresario decided to send out another twenty emails to everyone, changing the "or get hacked" to "YOU HAVE BEEN REPORTED".

That had the interesting side-effect of triggering swearing filters at a Malaysian airline, and these duly sent out notifications that "This email has violated the PROFANITY" for each message. See what I did up there with the asterisks?

I didn't keep a count, but I think just under a thousand messages arrived until people gave up on the Reply To All thing. That's actually not so bad: I can't recall the URL for it, but somewhere amongst the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blogs there is a post that describes a similar situation that took down an Exchange server. Apparently, that Reply To All war generated 15.5 million messages.

I'm pleased to report that the above wasn't a waste of time. There was some comedy to be had as people replied to those who replied to say not to reply and then, an Irish gentleman introduced himself. He broke the spell by saying he was pleased to make our acquaintance and that we should all head down the pub for a drink.

Brilliant idea, a London drink took place and another emailee took it even further and set up a LinkedIn group to discuss what had happened and as a general social experiment. A bunch of us now know each other a little more than before, which is fantastic really.

Just goes to show that the Internet, well, you'll never know what'll happen next on it.


Doxing the doxer

Anonymous are a little less so now that the FBI apparently managed to turn LulzSec leader "Sabu", or 28 year old Hector Monsegur from from New York in June last year.

The FBI kept an eye on Sabu around the clock, apparently, and directed him as to what to do online - this seems to have included hacking too, which would seem unethical at best. Sabu ratted out several other Anons around the world to the FBI, some of which now have been arrested and face lengthy jail sentences in the United States.

Curiously enough, the Anons seem to have "doxed" or outed Sabu two months before he was arrested but it's not until now that word is officially out that he was a turncoat.

Read more over at The Jester's Court but be careful in case there's some interesting Javascript code on it that'll open a TCP shell connection to your computer.



The US government is clearly not happy with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers of ICANN, which essentially governs the Internet.

On March 10, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) says it's canning the request for proposal for Internet Assigned Number's Authority or IANA functions, because it didn't apparently receive any that met the requirements "requested by the global community".

What that means isn't clear yet. Some observers say ICANN was slapped around because it introduced the .xxx domain against US wishes, and expanded the top level domains too. This is costing US business much money as they have to register new, expensive domains so it may very well be true that American companies have complained to the government about this.

Others say this is a powerplay by the US government to further seize control of the Internet, but what else is needed there? The US government has already shown that it can do whatever it likes on the Internet, such as seizing domains of alleged intellectual property rights infringers.

Maybe this is the first step in a process that will hand over control of the Internet to the International Telecommunications Union or ITU?

If so, be very afraid. How would you like to pay fees for international data traffic for instance, to government-owned telcos? That's being proposed currently. Putting the Internet Engineering Task Force or IETF and the Internet Society under inter-governmental control is also on the cards.

With Russia, China and India and the countries in their spheres of influence pushing hard for this to happen I'm wondering if I'll not only have seen the birth of the Internet in my lifetime, but also its death through choking bureaucracy.

Lag finger

I love some of the research Microsoft does and feel they don't get enough credit for it at times. This is good stuff.



Contact Juha via Twitter or through email, with hints, tips, flames and REMOVE ME requests.


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