TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Coming Soon to an Inbox Near You: 'Spiritual Spam'

Coming Soon to an Inbox Near You: 'Spiritual Spam'

Lisa Minter (
Thu, 9 Dec 2004 22:13:23 EST

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Internet users praying for salvation from junk mail
face a new torment -- "Spiritual Spam."

Along with the flood of messages offering everything from mortgages to
miracle cures, they are now being asked to repent and pray.

"We are seeing more and more of it. It appears to be on the rise,"
said Martin Lee of e-mail security company MessageLabs.

"The God-botherers are using the techniques of the 21st century. It's
Spiritual Spam and almost all of it is Christian," he told Reuters.

The prayers appear mostly to originate from native English speakers in
the United States.

"They are very good at hiding where they are. A lot of the stuff is
relayed through China," Lee said.

He said it is easier to act against the electronic evangelists in
Europe than it is in the U.S.

"The United States 'Can Spam' Act only applies to commercial
e-mail. If you are trying to save their souls, then it is exempt from
the U.S. Act. But it is illegal under European Union law because it is
unsolicited," Lee said.

The spiritual spammers are after souls rather than cash.

"These are old-style evangelicals wanting to spread the message," Lee

In one typical example, recipients are warned: "Eternity is a really
long time. If you or someone close to you has not accepted God, please
do so today."

Then came the prayer: "Deliver me from all my sinful habits. Set me

Neil Hammerton, managing director of computer security company Email
Systems, said: "This does not come from mass spam companies. It's
people with requests they want to put out.

He said they use a database of well known e-mail addresses and spam
software they can buy for as little as 25 pounds ($48).

"They sit at the end of a Broadband connection and send out thousands
of e-mails overnight," he told Reuters.

But he reckoned that spiritual spam still makes up less than one
percent of the unwanted traffic that pours onto the Internet every

The latest review by Email Systems showed that medical content made up
48 percent of all spam. Next came pornography with 15 percent followed
by gambling with 11 percent and mortgages with nine percent.

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