Spam, virus, phishing etc. (was: do these guys think we are idiots or what?

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Thu Apr 1 14:42:44 UTC 2010

"The Hallmark greeting 'spam'" may or may not be caused by a virus (and if
so it is probably spreading the virus). But if it is part of a mass mailing
(whether generated virally or from an actual central list) that is uninvited
by the recipient, and especially if it is not what it purports to be (a
greeting card from a friend), then it's spam in my book. The terms are not
necessarily exclusive.

Another word you may want to consider in this -- domain? -- is "meme",
insofar as memes -- "Here's something, do it!" -- *can *on occasion impel
people to send (possibly unwanted) messages to many people in their email
lists: not a mass mailing (to me, mass mailings are impersonal and don't
include sent by people I actually know and expect to receive personal mail
from), possibly spam (grey area).


On Thu, Apr 1, 2010 at 9:46 AM, Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at>wrote:

> Victor raises some interesting terminological questions. For me, a virus is
> a *program*. An e-mail message can *spread* a virus, but can't *be* one. On
> the other hand, it's not spam (which is, for me, unwanted junk mail), and
> it's not technically phishing either, because it's not 'fishing'--i.e.
> attempting to hook you into divulging valuable stuff.
> The original sense of 'spam' is still around, as you can tell when Wayne
> State faculty complain about 'spam' from the administration, but it's clear
> that the sense of the term is widening (as often happens with words--think
> of 'dog' and similar terms we teach in Intro classes.) It'll be interesting
> to watch this change in progress.
> Geoff
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> Faculty Liaison, C&IT
> and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
> +1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
> +1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)
> ----- "Victor Steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> > I have a different question--when did viruses become spam? Once upon
> > a
> > time, there were three kinds of problems with email--spam
> > (unsolicited
> > offers, which may have been real offers or get-rich-quick schemes,
> > boiler-room schemes, etc.), "infections" (virus- or worm-infected
> > mail),
> > and phishing (offers not only unsolicited but too good to be true,
> > which, of course, they were--usually intended for the recipient to
> > give
> > up secure information). This was some time after phishing became a
> > separate category but before we started calling everything "junk
> > mail".
> > In common use, there was rarely a difference between viruses and
> > worms,
> > but, otherwise, the three groups were distinct. Now "junk mail" and
> > "spam" are nearly synonymous and include all three categories. Did
> > anyone notice that?
> >
> > The Hallmark Greeting "spam" is actually a virus. There is somewhat of
> > a
> > blend technique here, as the message invites you to do something to
> > cause a problem on your end. But it is not "phishing" because it does
> > not ask you for personal information, it just invades your computer
> > upon
> > one careless click. Spam, unless you actually choose to spend money
> > on
> > worthless products is a nuisance, but otherwise harmless. Phishing
> > scams
> > have many subdivisions, including the "Nigerian letter scam", but the
> > most common ones for a while now have been fake credit card and bank
> > (or
> > ebay or paypal) messages telling you that your account has been
> > compromised and you have to change you password or add security
> > information (even if you don't have an account with that particular
> > bank). Infections usually have attached files, phishing messages have
> > overlayered links and original spam is just bullshit, but often have
> > links now to the supposed sale sites. So, technically, the
> > distinction
> > is quite clear. There are version of these for social networks and
> > some
> > infections no longer need a click to infect your computer, but,
> > otherwise, the distinctions have been stable for a long time.
> >
> > Yet, in popular view, these are all spam now.
> >
> >      VS-)
> >
> > On 3/31/2010 10:36 PM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
> > > Why are e-cards spam? Are greeting cards junk mail? Or just when
> > misspelled?
> > >
> > > DanG

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