Family Tree Family Tree

Document Sample
Family Tree Family Tree Powered By Docstoc
         oor-to-door salesmen, postal

D        junk mail, and telephone
         solicitors interrupting your
dinner are just a few of the regrettably
famous ancestors of spam e-mail.
                                                               by Mark Howells

What Is Spam E-mail?
    Spam e-mail is generally defined as
unwanted, and usually commercial, e-
mail. Unwanted is of course in the
mind of the receiver; you might not be
interested in the world’s smallest digi-
tal camera, but I might. None of us are
interested in a fraudulent Nigerian
money laundering scheme.
    There is nothing new about spam.
It has been around for years. Media
reports and personal experience indi-
cate that spam is becoming more and

more prevalent now. Estimates indi-
cate that spam takes up as much as 40
percent of all e-mail traffic, and that
percentage continues to grow. My per-
sonal mailbox does not yet bear out
that statistic, but I do seem to be get-
ting more spam lately.
    Another indication that spam is
more of a problem these days is that
                                                          Family Tree
America Online is now blocking
around more than 700 million pieces        and the remedies against spam are dif-    a spam mass mailing as requiring only
of spam e-mail each day. That’s 100        ferent in each state as well. There is    one positive response per 100,000 e-
million more e-mails than it actually      hope of a national law against spam in    mails. Postal junk mailers usually
delivers to intended recipients each       the United States but as the common       require a response rate of one in 100 to
day. Besides the nuisance factor to        Nigerian money transfer fraud shows,      cover costs. Aside from the costs being
hundreds of millions of Internet users,    spam knows no national borders.           negligible, the decentralized nature of
the fear is that spam e-mail may com-      Legislation and international agree-      the Internet means that even if nation-
pletely overwhelm the Internet itself.     ments against spam would be helpful       al laws and international agreements
Users will give up on e-mail as spam       but not a perfect solution.               prohibited spam, enforcement would
“crowds out” legitimate e-mail. Is a          Spam is simple to generate. With       be problematic. Obscurity techniques
communications resource of any value       almost no entry costs, millions of        such as anonymous routing and
when 99 out of every 100 messages are      pieces of spam can be churned out in      forged message headers can make
not of interest to their receiver? This    minutes. Spam software is freely          anti-spam efforts a needle-in-a-
hasn’t happened yet, but it is a possi-    downloadable from the Internet, tar-      haystack exercise.
bility.                                    get “customers” are cheap at a few dol-
                                           lars per million addresses, and finding   How Did the Spammers
There Ought to Be a Law                    a compliant Internet Service Provider     Find Me?
   Some twenty-seven states now have       who doesn’t care what you send out is        In the summer of 2002, researchers
laws against spam. Definitions of what     easy. One estimate puts the level of      at the Center for Democracy and
constitutes spam differ between states     successful return on an investment in     Technology set out to determine how

                                                                                        Ancestr y 5    Ju l y / Au g u s t 2 0 0 3   59
                                                 spammers get target addresses.           itable problem to solve. There are
                                                 They set up 250 new, valid e-mail        now various services and products
                                                 addresses and posted them on web-        available that will attempt to filter
                                                 sites, mailing lists, newsgroups, etc.   spam out of incoming e-mail. The
                                                 The e-mail addresses were submit-        problem with such a technological
                                                 ted to job posting sites, online auc-    fix is that it is not perfect. Most func-
                                                 tions, and other common locations        tion based on a known “black list” of
                                                 for the use of an e-mail address.        spammer source addresses or they
                                                 After six months of running the          filter keywords of common spam
                                                 experiment, the researchers had          such as “Viagara.” Neither of these
                                                 received more than 10,000 pieces of      filtering approaches can keep up
                                                 spam. Of these, 97 percent were to       with new or forged source addresses
                                                 e-mail addresses that were “harvest-     for spam or the creative permuta-
                                                 ed” off websites. The more popular       tions that spammers use to avoid the
                                                 the website, the more likely the e-      standard spelling of common spam
                                                 mail address was to receive spam.        topics.
                                                 The researchers received only                The anti-spam technology that
                                                 twenty-five spam e-mails that            shows some promise of getting a few
                                                 resulted from sharing or selling e-      steps ahead of the spammers will
                                                 mail addresses. They also noted          actually monitor your e-mail activity
                                                 that some spammers tried every           and attempt to learn your interests. It
                                                 possible combination of e-mail           then applies filtering rules to elimi-
                                                 address to send out spam in a shot-      nate e-mails on subjects you’re not
                                                 gun-like effect.                         likely to be interested in. This tech-
                                                    So ultimately most spam comes         nology is not yet mature but could
                                                 from posting your e-mail address to      turn out to be a solution in the
                                                 public websites where the spam-          future.
                                                 mers automatically harvest the e-            If you are going to use a spam fil-
                                                 mail addresses using software            ter, it is very important that you keep
                                                 robots that roam the Internet.           control of it. This means that you
                                                    These results are particularly        understand exactly what it is filter-
                                                 troubling for family historians. We      ing and that you are checking up on
                                                 want our e-mail addresses to be          what it throws away. It is up to you
                                                 available to others. We simply must      to ensure that your spam filter is not
                                                 use the Internet to leave our e-mail     discarding legitimate messages mis-
                                                 addresses on high-traffic websites.      identified as spam. This is a particu-
                                                 How else is our fourth cousin twice      lar concern when you are first fine
                                                 removed going to find us?                tuning your anti-spam filter. Don’t
                                                 Genealogy mailing lists on which we      send the suspected spam directly to
                                                 depend to interact with our fellow       electron heaven. Send it to a tempo-
                                                 researchers are usually archived in      rary holding file first and inspect it
                                                 web form. These archives can be          before permanently deleting it. You
                                                 harvested for e-mail addresses as        don’t want your favorite genealogy
                                                 well. What are family historians to      mailing list to suddenly be consid-
                                                 do since they can’t stop posting their   ered spam due to your overzealous
                                                 e-mail addresses?                        filters. Also, if you subscribe to an
                                                                                          anti-spam service where the filters
                                                 Technology Fixes                         are not under your control, you will
                                                   Internet Service Providers, soft-      want to check your discards before
                                                 ware vendors, and other service ven-     deleting them. If the service sudden-
                                                 dors have recognized spam as a prof-     ly changes the filtering on your e-

60   Ancestr y 6   Ju l y / Au g u s t 2 0 0 3
              THE ANTI-SPAM                                                        Searches are now available of the following

                                                                                   ports for your ancestor’s arrival in America.
                                                                                                        Indexes to lists Pass. Lists
                                                                                   New York City          1820-1948        1820-1940
                                                                                   Philadelphia           1727-1948        1727-1945
                                                                                   Baltimore              1820-1952        1820-1909
   that shows some promise will                                                    Boston              1848-91,1902-20 1820-1943
                                                                                   New Orleans            1813-1952        1820-1903
   actually monitor your e-mail                                                    Misc. Atlantic
                                                                                       & Gulf Ports       1820-1874        most avail.
                                                                                   San Francisco       1850-75,1893-1934 1850-1875
   activity and attempt to learn                                                   Galveston, TX          1896-1951        1896-1948
                                                                                   Gulfport, MS           1904-1954              -
   your interests. It then applies                                                 New Bedford, MA 1875-99,1902-54 1902-1942
                                                                                   Portland, ME           1893-1954        1893-1943
   filtering rules to eliminate                                                    Providence, RI         1911-1954        1911-1931
                                                                                   AL, FL, GA, SC         1890-1924              -
   e-mails on subjects you’re                                                      Charleston, SC
                                                                                   Savannah, GA
   not likely to be interested in.                                                 New England               1600’s           1600’s
                                                                                   Information given on lists generally includes
                                                                                   ship’s name, arrival date, passenger’s names,
                                                                                   age, sex, occupation, nationality, and sometimes
                                                                                   literacy, destination, class of travel (first class,
mail, Cousin Judy’s e-mails may no         or opportunity to describe your         steerage, etc.), embarkation port, and on 1880’s
longer be getting through to you.          obscuring technique, Cousin Judy        lists, sometimes place of birth!
    I use my e-mail software to filter a   might be just as confused as the har-   Beginning about 1890: generally all of the above
good deal of the spam I get each day.      vesting software robot. That defeats    plus departure date, marital status, race, last res-
                                                                                   idence, name and address of close relative or
My e-mail address has been very pub-       the purpose of using your address on    friend in homeland, how much money carried,
licly exposed for eight years now and      the Internet. An extreme form of this   whether ever in U.S. before, name and address of
approximately 20 percent of my             behavior is when people put in an       a relative or contact in the U.S., health, height,
                                                                                   weight, hair and eye color, and from about 1920,
incoming daily e-mail is spam. My e-       obscured e-mail address in their        planned length of stay and citizenship intentions!
mail software filters—the same ones I      “Reply To” section of their e-mail         Search fees: Index search: $19.00 (one
use to sort my desired mail into           headers. This prevents successfully       passenger / one port) or 3 ports for $45.00
appropriate mail boxes—simply fil-         sending a reply without changing the          Pass. List search $17.00 (one list)
ters e-mails with spam characteristics     e-mail address and makes the solu-      IMPORTANT:
to a holding mail box until I review       tion more painful than the problem        Index search AND List search BOTH needed
                                                                                     unless you already know name of ship and
them and trash them. I don’t have to       it purports to solve. I would never       EXACT arrival date AND port. (If not found in
                                                                                     index, List search fee will be refunded.) If port is
see my spam unless I choose to.            burden my correspondents with hav-        unknown, I suggest a 3-port search beginning with
                                           ing to decode my e-mail address           the (larger) ports at the top of the list. Indexes are
                                                                                     generally everyname (not just head of household).
Good on Sandwiches                         merely because I was tired of hitting
                                                                                   If found on list, photocopies of pages from list showing
   Spam doesn’t have to be made            the delete key. That’s not how we       passenger’s name and ship’s name will be provided
into a big deal. Your delete key is        genealogists treat one another.         along with cost quote for copy of entire list and for his-
                                                                                   tory of ship and shipping line, often including a picture
ideal for handling the problem. One           And yes, there is actually a Spam    of the ship!
method of avoiding spam that I have        family tree online at <www.spam.        Please provide passenger’s name and approximate birth
seen is by obscuring your e-mail           com/sp.htm>. It is, however, of the     year, port(s) of entry to be searched, approximate arrival
                                                                                   date, and any other identifying info., such as homeland,
address so it is not readable by the       meat product variety of Spam® which     occupation, and names of family members accompany-
software robots that harvest e-mail        unwillingly lent its name to unwant-    ing the passenger.

addresses. For example, “mark-             ed commercial e-mail. 5                   “We have found many passengers” would become “mark-                                                     missed by the new Ellis Island index.
how at oz dot net.” This works so                                                           Please give us a try.”
long as you have the ability to                                                               ACCURACY the top priority.
                                                                                              25 years research experience.
explain what you’ve done to your               Mark Howells prefers his Spam®               Send fees, plus long SASE please.
address. If you don’t have the space       fried at                            Paul Douglas Schweikle
                                                                                      142 E. Maple Ave. (K), Van Wert, OH 45891

                                                                                         Ancestr y 5          Ju l y / Au g u s t 2 0 0 3       61