Lycos raises the cost of spam with gentle DDOS attack
November 29th, 2004

Clever developers at Lycos-Europe have hatched a plan to attack spam by raising the spammers’ costs. As followers of Smart Mobs concepts know, the free rider phenomenon is largely responsible for the proliferation of spam in Internet email. Low entry barriers and negligible costs mean that even an infinitesimal response rate to spam advertisements brings profit to the spammers.

Lycos-Europe is distributing a free downloadable screensaver called Make Love Not Spam that directs a low-intensity distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) at URLs contained in spam messages. As the BBC reports:

By getting thousands of people to download and use the screensaver, Lycos hopes to get spamming websites constantly running at almost full capacity.

Mr Pollmann said there was no intention to stop the spam websites working by subjecting them with too much data to cope with.

He said the screensaver had been carefully written to ensure that the amount of traffic it generated from each user did not overload the web.

“Every single user will contribute three to four megabytes per day,” he said, “about one MP3 file.”

But, he said, if enough people sign up spamming websites could be force to pay for gigabytes of traffic every single day.

Lycos did not want to use e-mail to fight back, said Mr Pollmann.

“That would be fighting one bad thing with another bad thing,” he said.

. . . .

“There’s a huge user demand to not only filter spam day-by-day but to do something more,” he said “Before now users have never had the chance to be a bit more offensive.”

However, as The Register notes, “A spokesman for Lycos in Germany told The Register he believed that the tool could generate 3.4MB in traffic on a daily basis. When 10m screensavers are downloaded and used, the numbers quickly add up, to 33TB of ‘useless’ IP traffic. Seems Lycos may hurt not just spammers.”

Thanks to Ken and Rossi!

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