The website hosting Lycos Europe’s controversial “Make Love Not Spam” screensaver, which attempted to hit back at websites owned by spammers by generating internet traffic, appears to have been withdrawn – at least temporarily. The site now displays a large pink graphic telling surfers to “Stay tuned”.
The aim of the screensaver, according to Lycos, was to increase the running costs of spam websites and hopefully drive them out of business. Lycos Europe’s campaign against spammers courted controversy as some, including Sophos, questioned the legality of attacking spammers’ websites in this way.
“Attacking a spammer’s website is like poking a grizzly bear sleeping in your back garden with a pointy stick,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. “Not only is this screensaver similar in its approach to a potentially illegal distributed denial of service attack, but it also is in danger of turning innocent computer users into vigilantes, who may not be prepared for whatever retaliation the spammers care to dream up.”
It is not known whether Lycos has now decided to respond to criticism from the security community, or plans to reissue the screensaver in the future. Regardless, Sophos recommends computer users do not use the screensaver.
“Our advice to computer users would be to not provoke spammers in this way. Everyone hates spammers, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to lower yourself to their level and generate more unnecessary internet traffic,” continued Cluley. “If you’re fed up with spam, install a decent anti-spam product and make sure you never ever purchase a product marketed via junk email.”
Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend them from the threats of both spam and viruses.