knujonreportI had coffee with Garth Bruen of the KnujOn initiative. Garth lives in Boston and we both drove to Newton for coffee and a face-to-face discussion on the future of anti-spam fighting.

Garth gave me a deeper insight into the operation operated by he and his father. For $27/user/year, KnujOn will process your forwarded (to your KnujOn account) spam and take steps to shut down the sites that spammers link in their emails. This way, they compress the lifecycle of spam campaigns and ultimately remind web hosting providers of their role in better qualifying their customers.

They do this by parsing the urls, sending specially modified crawlers to the url in question and determine whether they are bogus or not. They often reach out to the organization posting the site or to the web hosting agency to let them know their findings. They can filter out known legitimate sites and email marketing agencies to avoid the false-positive circumstance. (Sometimes users find it easier to filter out legitimate email marketing as spam than to unsubscribe.)

 knujonreport2Garth and his father have been doing this for a few years already and have processed over 5 million pieces of spam which point to fewer than 400,000 sites many of which are reflectors to the nasty sites at the heart of these criminal enterprises. These 400,000 sites are run by about 40 different spammer groups. Sadly, Yahoo's Geocities is the most popular url linked since it's free hosting service has been so badly abused by automated signup scripts and the like.  

Subscribers are presented with a portal interface to keep up to date with their contribution to the great cleanup project. As shown in the graphic at the top of the entry, KnujOn claims over 50,000 shutdowns, and the user can see how their contributions have impacted the totals. In this case, 1,465 sites have been reported with over 1,000 suspensions and pending suspensions. More precise reports are also available, including a url-by-url analysis  as shown above. So, more  subscribers participating in this cleanup will enable more frequent instances which confirms more quickly that the url in question is a spammer-supported site.

Cleaning up the Internet is something all email users have to take more seriously. Thanks to KnujOn and their users, we are closer than ever to realizing this vision. If you want to subscribe, visit for more information.

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