Here’s a worthwhile job for the NSA

Blognosticator Head

Missing from most of the journalistic free-for-all that has been aimed at the NSA recently is any discussion as to what spy organizations should be doing as compared to what they are doing while intercepting our electronic communications.

Economic crime is a form of terrorism in my opinion. When groups of criminals use technology to steal from the citizens of any country, they are committing economic terrorism. The U.S. is a victim of this form of terrorism, and all of it is occurring right under the nose of the NSA.


In addition to searching for “foreign terrorists” who might be using the telephone networks to perpetrate crime, and in addition to watching the traffic of e-mail and text messages, how about shutting down e-mail spam? The NSA could do this in an afternoon, sparing the world trillions of dollars in losses to fraud, and ridding us of this pestilence forever.

According to Wikipedia, about 75 percent of all e-mails sent are fraudulent. Three out of four. I feel like I get them all.

The economic cost of this, again referring to the Wikipedia article on the topic, is over $20 billion in the U.S. alone. All of us know someone who has been scammed by the e-mail predators out there posing as lost grandchildren, heirs to absconded riches, or poor Nigerian widows with cancer.

I found it most interesting that Nigeria doesn’t even make the list of places from which fraudulent e-mails are sent. They come mostly from the U.S. and Asia, with Russia coming in a distant third (come on, Russia, get your fraudulent act together!). I say this because Nigeria is famous in popular culture as the source of these e-mail scams. The reality is that Los Angeles is more likely to be the source than Lagos, according to the statistics.

I use Apple Mail as my mail application, and it’s a boat-load of work to keep up with the scammers on my part. I use Mail’s very effective Rules filters to weed-out annoying e-mails. So far, I have written 154 filters, some containing as many as 35 search criteria, to kill incoming spam. I give them cute names like Russian Rulette for my incoming Russian scams, Thai Spring Rule for the Thai scams, and Las Spammas Mexicanas for those coming (ostensibly) from across the border (they are more likely coming from New Jersey).

Five (5)* additional IP filters on my e-mail server are targeting incoming e-mails from specific senders, specifically an “organization” that pretends to be called F Media. All of the physical addresses of this group are fake, and they send millions of spam e-mails daily (maybe billions). They also use my e-mail address in fraudulent e-mails sent to recipients in Italy. My Internet provider allows me to blacklist specific IP addresses, so when I can identify an IP address of a malicious sender, I can kill all incoming mail from them. This is very difficult, as the clever fraudulent e-mail perpetrators almost never use the same IP address more than a few times.

The reason that I know the spammers are using my e-mail address is that I get all their bounced attempts to send spam to Italy. It’s really annoying.

You might argue that the NSA is not in the law enforcement business. That’s true, but I know that they know some people who are in law enforcement, and those guys are keen to stop economic terrorism. At least they claim that they are working on it all the time.

Let’s give them this challenge: rid the world of economic terrorism by e-mail fraud.

We’ll all be better off. I promise.

*This is here to entertain my readers who don’t approve of the practice of putting numbers in parentheses after they appear in text.

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and was a Guest Professor at Hochschule München from September, 2021 to September, 2022. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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