Overview of spam from Earthlink

15 Feb 2006

Note: Automated spam monitoring stopped several years ago. These web pages are maintained for historical reasons. Some may be updated from time to time as news about the individual sites becomes available.

No spam today

Overview of last 14 reports

11 Sep 2000 187935.11full headers
14 Mar 2000 197637.10full headers
12 Jan 2000 185431.18full headers
07 Jan 2000 2320966.52full headers
04 Jan 2000 1011631.01
03 Jan 2000 1321208389.05
21 Dec 1999 76649218.68full headers
17 Dec 1999 45515149.15
16 Dec 1999 49495150.25
14 Dec 1999 1021100326.86
09 Dec 1999 44415129.35
06 Dec 1999 55577172.66
03 Dec 1999 47379122.27
30 Nov 1999 1822663.15

Overview of history

Total spam since 5 Jul 199672222729453 246005.00
Peak spam on 5 May 1997259447151 10735.11
Peak daily spam on 23 Jul 1996948948 4111.46
Average daily spam48.2489.6 164.94

full history also available

General information about Earthlink

Ownership & Contact Info

It is reported that Earthlink has a toll-free number for tracking spam: 888-ELN-SPAM (888-356-7726).

Earthlink is the site that inspired the automated spam reports. During the summer of 1996, the amount of usenet spam from Earthlink became enormous, drowning out many newsgroups. The spam was mostly explicit ads for porn and phone sex, posted indiscriminately to all newsgroups with "sex" in the title, including alt.sexual-abuse.recovery, where it caused no small amount of stress among the participants.

In a sense, Earthlink pioneered the massive flood of spam on the internet. There had been spammers before, but Earthlink was the first major ISP to permit them to continue. There had been rogue sites before, but Earthlink was the first one that couldn't just be disconnected by its upstream site.

Earthlink steadfastly ignored complaints and denied there was a problem. To prove otherwise, I wrote a filter which examined netnews to detect and collate spammed articles. A daily report was generated showing the extent and the nature of the spams.

As a result of the large volume of spam coming from Earthlink, UDP was discussed and eventually implemented. This got Earthlink's attention, and steps were taken (after many promises and delays) to deal with the problem. Spam counts finally declined.

Earthlink admin Harris Schwartz began posting regular reports on actions that Earthlink had taken against spammers. However, the reports did not identify spammers in any meaningful way. It was speculated that the reports were just lists of randomly generated phony account names, used to lull usenet netizens into a false sense of security.

After a few months, Earthlink -- apparently convinced that people had forgotten about them -- stopped blocking outgoing spam, and the problem became worse than ever. In addition, large quantities of email spam were being generated by Earthlink customers. Harris Schwartz stopped issuing reports.

In early 1997, discussion of UDP for Earthlink began again. Partial UDP was implemented. This had the effect of getting Earthlink's attention again. Harris Schwartz and Nick Christenson issued several posts claiming that spam was being dealt with, although it still continued to arrive, apparently undiminished. In July 1997, spam levels finally came down, although as of 1999, Earthlink is still usually in the top 10.

Earthlink has implemented filtering software that works to regulate the volume of outgoing spam. Earthlink can adjust the parameters of the filter to "fine tune" the spam volume. The filters are not used to stop outgoing spam, but simply to reduce it enough to keep Earthlink off of the top of the spam list and presumably safe from another UDP. Earthlink rarely makes the top-5 list anymore, but rarely fails to make the top-10 list.

Dave Hayes has prepared a nice graph of spam over time.

Earthlink, like many major service providers, exerts the absolute minimum effort required to stay off the Realtime Black List and avoid the Usenet Death Penalty. Earthlink allows spam problems to get worse and worse until they are added to the RBL or are threatened with UDP. They then institute whatever measures are required to avoid the RBL or UDP. Sometimes this consists of simply promising to do something about the problem.

Site history

NetNews Feeds

Earthlink receives netnews feeds from the following sites that I know of:

To report spam, contact abuse@earthlink.net

A complete history may also be available.

General notes:

Return to top | Return to spam summaries | complete history

The opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ed Falk and do not necessarily represent those of any other organization, (although I hope they do). I wish to thank Rahul.net for hosting this web page.

This page maintained by Ed Falk