Sunday, January 15, 2006

Do spammers fear OCR?

Nick FitzGerald recently sent me two sample spams that seem to indicate that some spammers fear that using images in place of words isn't enough. They've started to obscure their messages to prevent optical character recognition.

The first spam appears to be a scan of a document that's been skewed slightly. Now this could be a simple and bad scan.

But the second is even more interesting. It appears to be perfectly normal:

Until you look at the fact that this was actually constructed using <DIV> tags for layout and the breaks between the lines are in the middle of words. Here Nick has kindly inserted borders showing that the words are broken horizontally and then put back in the right position:

But is anyone doing OCR, or are spam filters getting good enough that the spammers are being really paranoid about what they are sending?

The funny think about the second example is that the URL they include is not obfuscated, is clickable and appears in the SURBL :-) So despite the effort to obscure the content a simple check of the spamminess of the URL gets this email canned.


If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.


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