Friday, December 26, 2008

Forward mails?

Every now and then I get a mail saying "if you don't forward it to at least 10 people then ...." or "to get your true love forward this mail to at least 10 people" or "Mr Sandip Tiwari is a final year student and has a serious Open Source disease, he is in serious need of money to support his group. Google has agreed to support him. Please forward this mail. For every forward he will receive some amount, please do not neglect this email as it is a matter of life and death" or some other nonsense. And people forward these mails.

I remember threatening one of my friends to subscribing his mail account to a porn site if he continued to send me such emails. (He stopped after that)

Surely there can't be a power in those emails to bless you or to punish you. And I doubt google or yahoo will help for such a cause.

On the second thought they have powers. They have a power to punish you by stealing your details, to bless you with viruses or make money for others.

Ever heard of email trackers?
Like the name says, they are programs that track emails. Whether the mail was read or not? The IP address of the reader, the number of times it was read, forwarded, etc. all such details can be collected.

There may be several types of email trackers, one simple one works by embedding an image into the email. The image is kept on some server and the server collects information of people trying to access the image.

How to do it?

Make a image (mostly blank with very small size), store it on your web server. Now create a script that will collect all the information required and return that image. Put this script on the web server. Now type your mail and embed the link to that script. The script will simply return an image whenever the mail is opened. Before returning the image, it will collect the information like IP address, operating system, etc.

Here is an example. Haven't tried it yet. If you try it, please let me know the result.

Now you read that beautiful mail and forward it to your dear friends. What happens? You are simply spreading that threat to new victims, helping some guy sitting somewhere to trap new victims.

The other thing that forward mails do is: Viral advertising
How often do you see at the bottom of the email a name you know. HCL, Infosys, Microsoft, WIPRO, etc. I am not saying that these big companies are sending these messages. I am actually puzzled about how these names get there.

But Viral advertising is the truth. That is how Hotmail, Yahoomail, Paypal, Orkut, YouTube became popular.

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