If you're curious about the odd corner of the world where I'm living, read this article (free registration required) before the NYT put it into their archive and start charging for it. Those with full-text access to the NYT can find it by searching for Richard Flanagan, Tasmania, New York Times (September 12, 2004). Richard Flanagan is Tasmania's best-known living author. Unlike the recent piece he wrote for the Melbourne Age which ruffled so many politicians' feathers in Tasmania, this article, published in the travel section, isn't as political.
This always happens. As soon as I mention being on top of some particular type of spam, I discover more spam problems. This blog has just been targetted for TrackBack spam, and it was some very nasty stuff indeed. I have decided to turn TrackBack off. As I much as I found receiving TrackBack pings useful, it was a very rare occurrence, even when somebody did link to this blog. By balancing the potential harms, the small number of legitimate TrackBacks I receive does not justify the extra work I have in monitoring the blog for noxious TrackBack spam and removing it. This is unfortunate, because I do like the idea of TrackBack. If there is a solution to this problem, such as TrackBack screening, I will turn it back on.
Mobile phones are an interesting technology. They can be used not just as a means of communication, but increasingly as a payment system. Each advance in communications and payment systems technology is inevitably exploited by the unscrupulous (think of fax spam, email spam, telemarketing, premium 1900 numbers; counterfeit currency, cheque fraud, credit card fraud, debit card fraud, identity theft and fraud associated with PayPal and other online payment systems). Eventually this behaviour is recognized and the public is usually protected from these scams by new laws, different business practices or consumer behaviour or technological solutions. We haven’t got there yet with mobile phones. In Australia, ordinary people are still very vulnerable to premium SMS scams.
Email spam is annoying enough. Comment spam on blogs can be quite vile – although I’m happy to say TypePad is much improved in this area. Unsolicited SMS (also known as text - and txt at Vodafone) is particularly annoying, and it is certain to become even more prevalent. But can you imagine receiving unsolicited spam which charges you content charges for the honour of receiving the spam? Essentially, that is what premium SMS scams are about.