In the Oregonian today, a former spammer talks about the biz. He claims that after a few months, he was making $1000 a week. The hidden spam gurus he learned from claimed to make $10,000 a week.
The slashdot thread discussing this story focused on how 4LL SP4MM3RZ MUST D13 (with a side discussion of $52k a year as chump change (???) ).
I’m more intrigued by the terrorist cell structure for accessing the pro grade spam software and advice, and how this secrecy is shaped by the universal hatred of spam:
As with most cases in the seedy world of bulk online advertising, many spam clubs aren’t “legitimate,” Shiels said. But he found two that offered many business leads and spamming tools.
“There’s a lot of people in there that are generous to help you out and give you information based on their experience,” he said. “But you have to probe it.”
Shiels slowly gained the anonymous spamming gurus’ trust.
He even spoke on the phone with some, though Shiels noted “they won’t usually give you their real name.”
Shiels would not reveal the companies that make the proprietary software, and he said they are difficult to track down. They only accepted payments through wire transfers, Shiels said.
“I could tell you the name right now, and you wouldn’t be able to find them,” he said.
The former spammer Shiels also pointed out that being a pro spammer was an evolutionary process requiring constant innovation. This evolutionary pressure is what shapes the spam biz, with it’s divisions of labor and proprietary tools, and carefully maintained structures to keep the death threats from easily reaching their targets (death threats, along with Darwinian pressure, are what convinced Shiels to change jobs.)
The shadow world of pro spammer as well-paid terrorist is also shaped by the structure of the Internet, a system designed to route information packets around damage. A system imagined for a civilization-destroying apocalypse, re-imagined as a tool for open communication, with something of the original grim intentions is resurfacing in the spam / counterspam dialectic.
Shiels described it as a war. And although he’s refering to the high cost of ammo (software and databases), it’s also a war in terms of being a period of intense and violent technical innovation which will shape future society.