Retaliation

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Anti-spam technique: Retaliation
Date of first use: 1994
Effectiveness: Low
Popularity: Low
Difficulty of implementation: Low
Where implemented: External
Harm: High


Retaliation can be seen as a variation on Abuse Reporting. It is a cooperative technique whereby victims of spam attempt to waste the resources of the organization sending the spam, or cause them other inconvenience.

Many kinds of retaliation have been seen over the years:

  • Sending in fake orders with fake or stolen credit card numbers, to cause credit card processor chargebacks.
  • Denial of service attacks on the systems used to take orders.
  • Sending of additional spam with fake offers, discrediting the original spam.
  • Physical attacks on property belonging to spammers.
  • Signing up spammers for enormous quantities of paper junk mail.
  • Complaining to professional organizations and attempting to get spammers censured.

Retaliation varies greatly in legality.

Advantages

Imposes actual cost on spammers, and may make a given spamming campaign ineffective.

Disadvantages

Since spammers are criminals, many are quite willing to hire a botnet and carry out a DDoS attack on those who dare to retaliate against their spam. (Example: the Blue Frog mass reporting system led to DDoS attacks from spammers.)

Illegal forms of retaliation may result in legal action against the retaliators.