Turing Test Failure

Spammers are endlessly inventive in their attempts to get us to click links to their malware. Sometimes they try something clever with software. One such idea, which resulted in a flood of spam in my inbox yesterday, works on the assumption that people mentioned on a web site must work for the company that owns the web site.

So yesterday I got a bunch of messages aimed at my “staff”. There was, for example, email for kevin [at] cheryl-morgan [dot] com, titled “Message for Kevin Standlee”. I also got messages for other “staff”, including Charlie Stross, Christine Burns, Jan Morris, Jerry Brown, Kari Sperring, Norman Cates, Oliver Postgate, Tom Disch and Patrick Ness. (Ah, if only Jan Morris was on my staff…)

There was a message for Mary Sue, but I guess every company got one of those.

The software is aware that some people have three-part names, so there were messages for Guy Kay, Diana Jones and Ada Day.

That last one might give you the idea that the algorithm has faults, and indeed it does. To start with it is very bad a getting gender right. Kevin’s message begins “Dear Ms. Standlee.” Several other names are miss-gendered including, bizarrely, that Steve Gerber is deemed male but Stephen Boucher is deemed female. I have a sneaking suspicion that they may be using a random algorithm.

But it is the collection of false positives that cause most of the mirth. I have email for people with fascinating names such as Blog Readers, Alan Speaks, Justina Rocks, Liz Goes, Somerset Enters, Scarlet Fever, Hugo Pimpage and Iz Recommended.

Sometimes spam brightens up my day.

4 thoughts on “Turing Test Failure

  1. Actually, I’m sure Hugo Pimpage was At last year’s eastercon. Wasn’t he that tall thin chap with the handlebar moustache asking all those passive-aggressive questions at the “Whither Blogging?” Panel?

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