Terry Zink's Cyber Security Blog

Discussing Internet security in (mostly) plain English

A trip to Spamatopia - part 5

A trip to Spamatopia - part 5

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Returning back to the tales of my trip to Spamatopia, recall that I left the land of Fauxpharm where I couldn't understand a word that anybody there said.  I had already visited Pumpenstach and Virus Valley.  I only had time to visit one more place in detail, or drive through a whole bunch of places.

Spamatopia is a bit of an oddity in terms of the structure of the land.  The whole country is known as Spamatopia but within it there are subdistricts known as provinces, or states, or whatever.  It's really hard to describe it because they seem to follow their own rules.

Anyways, the reason I mention this is because after I drove out of Fauxpharm, I was driving along the freeway where I saw an exit to the Kingdom of Praun.  The turnoff sign had a suggestive image beneath it.  "Gee, I wonder what could possiblly be in that place," I thought as I decided against going there.  I kept driving along and took the turnoff on the 419 and entered the district of Ayregyn.  What wonderful adventures awaited me here?

As per usual in the land of Spamatopia I saw plenty of abandoned cars lying along the side of the highway along with mindless other drivers speeding (or slowing) along with the rest of the motorists.  Eventually I came to the capital city of Ayregyn, Aboja.  I parked my car and got out.  Unlike the previous three places I had been, this place was rather bland and somewhat run-down.  The people were also trying their best to play on my sympathies; not only that, but they spoke in a highly formal way that was very foreign to my North American ears.

"Greetings to you in the name of our glorious and wonderful creator!" said the first person who walked up to me.  The guy wasn't dressed very well but I couldn't tell whether or not he was dressing the part or was actually poor.  You cannot be too trustworthy of Spamatopians.  "This may come as a surprise to you, but my gracious wife was recently killed in an accident when our car ran off the road.  You may have read about it in the news.  She was very wealthy.  Unfortunately, the bank account was stored in her name and I have no way of getting the money.  However, I have chosen you because I believe in your good instincts and character.  Would you be willing to loan me the money for some food and I shall invest the rest, and then when the investment starts to go up in value I shall unlock the difference in my deceased wife's account and we can share the funds?"  This was a very verbose way of asking me to borrow some spare change.

"Uh, no thanks," I answered.  I left him there and walked on.  It certainly didn't take very long to get accosted for some cash.

Three more people came up to me and asked me nearly the same question.  Unlike the first guy, they were better dressed but they all used the same highly spirtual and formal language.  But just like the first guy, I turned them all down.

I finally walked up to another lady who didn't seem to be begging anybody for some cash (she clearly didn't seem like she needed the money, she was well dressed).  She was a Latino lady who was carrying a briefcase and fiddling with what looked like one of those smart phones.  I was going to solve the mystery of the abandoned cars along the highway once and for all.

"Excuse me," I said as I walked up to her.  "You may not be expecting to hear from me, but I have seen that in this great country there are wonderful and glorious abandoned cars all over the place.  What's the deal with that?  Why would anybody just leave their cars on the side of the road?"

She looked at me, a little annoyed it seemed like, and replied "You aren't from around here, are you?" I nodded.  Was it that obvious?  I wonder what gave it away?  Probably the fact that I wasn't trying to rip people off by asking for money and justifying it with a fake story about my rich loved one passing away in a military conflict.  "Those vehicles are stolen vehicles.  People leave them unlocked and the other citizens of Spamatopia take them to deliver their goods.  Often times a great deal of damage is done to them."

"Why would people leave them unlocked, unsecured?" I asked.  "Don't people care about their vehicles?  Some of them are really nice looking machines."

"People simply don't know or don't care that their cars are being exploited or are vulnerable to being exploited."

"Why don't they take precautions?  Arent' they aware of the risks?" I replied.  The lady merely shrugged and said she didn't know why more people were not more careful.  "What about the other motorists on the highways?  The ones that never change speeds, never look around, driving like mindless drones?"

"In those cases," replied the lady, "those are the actual owners of those vehicles and they've been infected with a disease that temporarily renders them unable to think for themselves.  They do the bidding of the other Spamatopians, delivering the goods to and fro.  They really are powerless to do anything else.  Most of them aren't even aware of it"

"Are they forever doomed to do the Spamatopian bidding?" I asked.

"No," replied the lady.  "They can get better with an inoculation.  They can also do a lot of security measures to prevent from ever getting sick.  Often times they realize that their car is on the side of the highway and only then do they take action.  Of course, it would be better if they protected themselves in the first place."  She looked at her watch.  "I have to get going, but perhaps I'll see you around some time."  She reached into her coat pocket and gave me her card.  All it had was her name - Esther Hannah Santos - and her title which only said "Investigator."  "If you're ever having difficulty in Spamatopia," said Esther with a wink, "just give me a call and let me know."  With that she turned and left.  She appeared to be incredibly busy.

I stood there from about a minute and then returned to my car.  Unlike most of the other people in this weird country, I actually had the foresight to lock my car.  I got into it and decided to head back to the airport.

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  • Is the moral of your story that spam is so prevailent because people don't protect themselves? Or that there are a lot of criminals out there and the internet is just another venue for their crimes?

  • Hello, Closets,

    It's a little bit of both.  When I first got the idea to personify the world of spam a few weeks ago, I wanted to create a world that reflects what the world would be like if it took on the characteristics of spam.

    You've identified some of the themes of my story exactly.  People don't protect their computer systems and are responsible for deploying spam (hence, the metaphor of mindless drones on the highway delivering goods to and fro).  The cars on the side of the highway are bots that have been abandoned.  The ones on the highway are active bots.

    On the other side, in the anti-spam community, while we acknowledge that spammers are clever, we also believe that they are ethically challenged.  As you so clearly point out, there are lots of criminals out there and the internet is a venue.

    I thought it would be fun to capture that in a story by personifying the traits of the spam in a not-so-fictional world.

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