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spam detector algorithm?
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I've been mulling over algorithmic/computational ways to spot spams
for some time now. I think I might've come up with a way to represent
messages (and compare representations) that would be useful to remailer
operators who don't want to let spams (where "spam" == many messages with
identical or very similar content) through their remailers. Any such
technique will really only be useful at the last remailer in a chain, at
least until people start sending encrypted spams (and there doesn't seem to
be so much incentive for sending those).
My proposed method is this: break the body of a message down into a list of
words (with their frequencies). Eliminate words in that list which aren't in
the "standard dictionary" (which ideally will contain many of the words used
in the messages but doesn't need to have all of them). Alphabetize the list
of words which remain. Plot a point in 3d space for each word in that list
where its X coordinate is its position in the alphabetized list, its Y
coordinate is its position in the dictionary, and its Z coordinate is its
frequency (of appearance in the original text). This should produce a curve
which "describes" the original text; messages which use many of the same
words as the original (and don't use any new words) and have similar usage
counts should produce similar curves.
My assumption (which needs some testing) is that even moderately intelligent
auto-spams (e.g., which assemble canned sentences into paragraphs or canned
paragraphs into messages) are going to be similar enough that they'll
eventually generate similar curves as other messages - the order in which
the words appear doesn't matter (and isn't preserved). I'm also assuming
that adding enough words to change the curve's shape would make the
resulting messages nonsensical or wierd enough that they're unlikely to
be useful for people who want their spams to get read. Evildoers solely
interested in generating volume without coherence can just quote
libertarian/objectivist texts (ha, ha, just a joke for all of you people
who keep slamming "commies") or pick words/characters at random.
I'm assuming - and this may be an erroneous assumption - that it's feasible
to algorithmically describe and compare curves/lines in 3d space. My math
is weak and spotty, but I think that's college-level (high-school, even?)
math. It seems like one might compare equations which describe the curves for
similarity (e.g., one curve might be x=2y+1 (in 2d space) and another might be
x=2y+1.2, where "y=10" initially for each), and also compare the areas
demarcated by the lines for similarity. My reason for including word frequency
as a third dimension is to dampen the effect of an intelligent spammer
throwing in a few early "A" words (e.g., "aardvark abcess absolute") or "Z"
words to skew the curve.
Any thoughts about this? Interesting? Stupid? Like I said, my math is weak.
My intention is to try to cobble up a 2d version of this to see how it runs
but I thought I'd see if anyone can point out why it can't work, or if it's
useful enough that someone with a better math background than I've got
wants to take this idea somewhere better.
One side effect to the deployment of spam detectors may be that the remailer
pinging services will need to move to using encrypted packets. It'd be
possible for the remailer operators to identify and specially handle
reliability measuring packets but that seems broken. Ideally, they should be
indistinguishable from ordinary remailer messages. At least until money is
involved, nobody's likely to give them special treatment - but even relatively
small charges for remailing would make it more attractive for a remailer
operator to try to skew the results of the pinging services so as to direct
more traffic to themselves (my remailer recently hit Raph's Top Three again
and that always brings a big traffic hit - it'll probably drop out again
pretty soon and things'll be slow again. If I was getting $.10 for every
message, though, I might care more about keeping it in the top 3.) My
initial plan would be to include code in a spam detector which simply
MD5's messages which don't seem to have identifiable words, and watches for
a repeat of those hashes in, say, the last 100 messages seen; this would
force someone who wants to send an encrypted spam (or uses a spam-detecting
remailer to reach a non-detecting remailer) from encrypting once and sending
1000 times; they'd have to encrypt 1000 times to send 1000 times, which may
be enough of a performance drain on them to make spamming less attractive.
My impression is (speak up if I'm wrong) that requiring encryption for the
ping packets wouldn't be an enormous burden on the pinging services because
the new generation of software sends fewer pinging packets such that the
CPU time required isn't an issue.
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