How do spammers discover newly created email accounts? - Lisp Propulsion Laboratory log

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Paolo Amoroso's weblog. Main interests: Lisp, astronomy (Moon), space exploration (Apollo and early manned programs) Calendar of past entries | Related links xml

How do spammers discover newly created email accounts?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Last month, out of curiosity, I got a Gmail account. I used it only for sending a couple of test messages to and from my main email account. I didn't use Google Groups. And nobody knew about the account except for the friend who invited me, whom I'm positive didn't post or otherwise publicly mention it. Yet, within weeks, I got two spam messages properly filed as such by Gmail.

I wonder how spammers discover newly created email accounts. I'd like to know because I am curious, not because much can be done about that. I think that spam is largely a social problem.

Some providers make it really simple to discover new accounts, which have numeric codes. In my Gmail account the user name consists of my first and last names separated by a dot. In this case, spammers may keep databases of first and last names and periodically poll major providers for likely combinations, which is a possibility.

Another possibility is that Google might directly or indirectly provide spammers with lists of new users, possibly for a fee. If so, the irony is that the mail from those spammers is then tagged as such.

Or maybe there is a publicly accessible directory of Gmail users, which seems unlikely.

If you have any ideas, I'd like to hear from you.

Copyright © 2006 by Paolo Amoroso

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