Yahoo! still in the dark. Rep’s don’t understand fundamentals of SPAM

A few years ago I created a Yahoo! e-mail address for my son – well before he was old enough to use one – just to capture the address.  At the time, Yahoo! would not allow the account to be created with an age under 13, so I used my own birthday to get past that hurdle.  And now, my son is old enough to use e-mail.

For years, the account has been untouched – never used – and completely locked down (or as locked down as Yahoo! enables it to be).

Now that he’s old enough to use e-mail with his school friends, I checked the account – and it’s full of SPAM that goes like this

How are you doing,
I am Suk – naughty beauty with hundreds of mad ideas in a head!
What I’m searching for here? You know, I do not know it yet! Probably just breathtaking dialogue with men, maybe flirting, maybe having sex or maybe some kind of serious relations if we r lucky. Who knows, maybe you are exactly what I need?!
then, bye, write me back, my sweet boy. I’ll wait! Kissing
Suk

Hey dear!))
It is Shanta.
I am pretty and smart woman and I wanna offer you to to go to a date with me, what do you think about it?)
I saw your shots and I really liked them, so I thought that it’d be a good idea to write to u! There will be no doubts left when you’ll see my shots!)
I am expecting to get your answer soon! Maybe we could go somewhere for a drink later, who knows)) Maybe I’d invite u to have a drink at my flat;)

Oh boy.  EXACTLY the kind of thing that I DON’T want in my kid’s e-mail.

So I check Yahoo!’s site and they now have a feature called Yahoo! Family Accounts – specifically for kids under 13 (though to be sure, I wouldn’t want a 13 year old to receive those messages either).

To link my son’s account to my own, his has to have an age under 13 yrs.  BUT IT CAN’T BE CHANGED.  Turns out, Yahoo! won’t let one change the birthday of an established account to one under 13 years old.

So I called Yahoo!  (I was amazed that they have phone support.  Does Google or Microsoft?)

The rep acknowledged that to link my son’s account to mine under the Yahoo! Family Account structure, the account has to be one with a birthday of someone under 13 years old.  He also confirmed that one cannot change the birthday associated with the account from older than to younger than 13.  Lastly, he told me there was no way to associate the accounts and suggested I just create a new one (logical, but totally insufficient and defeating the whole purpose of snaring the account e-mail address of choice years ago).

OK – I get it.  Safeguards, timing of creating accounts, policies to protect Yahoo! and users make it impossible to link the accounts.

What about the root problem?  The spam?

Here’s what he told me:

  • “Change your password.”I politely explained to him that it is not necessary for a spammer to know account passwords to send e-mail to those accounts and that no matter how secure and how often changed my password might be, Yahoo! would continue to receive mail sent to the account.  E-mail accounts are designed to receive e-mail. Spammers just buy or create lists of target e-mail accounts.  They do not break into those accounts to deposit messages – they simply use their own e-mail engines to send the messages.
  • “OK.  Then you need to run anti-virus software.  You have a virus.”Now, still polite but having lost all respect for the “support desk,” I explained that spam is received via the Internet over web-mail.  It is not created by a virus on my machine.  A spammer creates the message, and sends it over the Internet to Yahoo! which proudly delivers it to any browser, on any device, customers choose.
  • “So you need to block the sender’s address.”Close!!  But no cigar.  It’s not that I need to do the blocking – it’s that Yahoo! needs to do the blocking.  Spammers use sophisticated algorithms to rotate and mutate their sending signatures to get past spam engines.  It’s the job of spam engines to outmaneuver the mutations and successively, successfully, stay ahead of the spammers.I remember when my wife worked for Brightmail, the spam engine company that was acquired by Symantec on May 19, 2004 for $370 million in cash.  As an industry insider, she knew that Yahoo! had a DIY spam engine that basically sucked.  Yahoo! spam was one of the main reasons we switched to Gmail.He didn’t get it.

When asked if there was anything else he could help me with, I told him he could help himself as a Yahoo! employee (or contract employee) by sending my regards to Marrisa noting that Yahoo!’s spam engine still sucks and that at least this family will stick to Gmail and Outlook.com (see my post on Outlook.com e-mail – I’m still happy with it, and still wish it supported IMAP!).

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