Really Clever ASCII Spam

I use Gmail, which has an awesome spam filter, so I very rarely end up with real spam in my inbox. Spammers, of course, are always trying to come up with ways around spam filters, and today I ended up with what has to be the most clever spam I’ve ever seen. The subject was “Order:157-0585-035,” and even though I knew it was spam based on that and what I saw in the snippet that Gmail shows you, I opened it anyway, just out of curiosity. Here’s what I saw when I opened it

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

That looks pretty much like any other spam, right? But it isn’t. It’s actually ASCII art. In other words, the text of the email is only “readable” because of the patterns in the text. Here’s another screenshot, but this time the text is magnified to show you what it really looks like

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Interesting, eh? Since this one is nothing but whitespace and numbers, a spam filter could actually filter this one out pretty easily, once it knew what to look for. If the spammers start interspersing letters with the numbers, it will get harder to spot. And if they can get whole words in there, too, it will be harder still. I hate spam as much as anyone, but I have to actually give these guys credit for trying.

“Prize Notification” From “Microsoft”

I just checked my email and found this oh-so-exciting email from MICROSOFT EMAIL PROMOTIONS:

MICROSOFT EMAIL PROMO:OFFICIAL PRIZE NOTIFICATION

The MICROSOFT EMAIL PROMO TEAM is glad to announce that after a successful completion of the PROMO DRAWS on the 17th July 2008, your e-mail address,attached to winning numbers:(55) (73) (14) (41) (36) (29) won in the Tenth lottery category.

You have therefore been approved to claim a total sum of £150,000,00(One Hundred and Fifty Thousand British Pounds Sterling) in cash credited to file REF NO:MSW-L/008-28793, BATCH NO:2008MJL-05, this is from a total prize money of £3,750,000 (Three Million,Seven hundred and Fifty Thousand British Pounds Sterling),shared among the Twenty five (25) international
winners in this category.

All participants were selected through our Microsoft computer ballot system drawn form 167,000 Names,as part of our International “E-MAIL” Promotion Program for our prominent MS-WORD users all over the world and for the continuous use of the internet. You are adviced to contact the claims processor with the details below via his e-mail address :

NAME:  Marvin Cunningham
EMAIL: mrmarvcunn@yahoo.com.hk
TEL:   +44 703 5902789

PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU ARE TO SEND THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION TO CLAIM  YOUR WINNINGS:

1.Full Name………………………………
2.Address:………………………………
3.Phone:……………Fax:……………….
4.Country:………………………………
5.Sex/Gender……………………………..

In order to avoid unnecessary delay and complications,please remember to quote your reference and winning ticket number in all correspondence with  your claims officer.Your secret pin code is ML0757985.Be warned that cases of double claims and unwarranted abuse of this program  will be legally pursued.

YOURS FAITHFULLY,
MRS. MARTHA TAYLOR

There are so many spam dead giveaways in that email that I can hardly count them. There’s the all caps subject, the three different email addresses associated with the “prize,” the fact that the “prize” is to be awarded in pounds instead of dollars, the fact that the coordinator is using a Yahoo account from Hong Kong and the fact that there are numerous spelling errors that just scream “Nigerian scumbag.” I love that they have quotes around E-Mail, which makes me think of Dr. Evil saying “laser” from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. I also love the fact that the prize is given to those in “our prominent MS-WORD users all over the world and for the continuous use of the internet.” Riiiiight. I’m a “prominent” user of Word and the intertubes, so now I’m eligible. Suuuuure…

Yeah, I’ll be responding to this one.