Microsoft combats Hotmail spam with Swedish ‘re-training’

Will the hunted turn up to class, or have they already moved to Facebook?

Microsoft Sweden has launched a part-education, part-unashamed marketing campaign aimed at convincing spammers to retrain as direct marketers since, it says, spam is dying.

In a new promotional video purported to be filmed at Microsoft’s Akalla campus near Stockholm, a Swedish Microsoft shows spam as a percentage of total email declining towards zero, highlighting the impact technologies such as its SmartScreen Filter are having on spammers’ product.

“Will these people become unemployed? Yes, they will. And that’s a fact,” says Microsoft Sweden.

Since Microsoft Sweden “cares about all people, even spammers”, it has created Spammers’ AID, to help spammers “find a new career”.

Microsoft Sweden does not intend to initially hire any spammers, Microsoft Sweden marketing manager, Åsa Nygren, told CSO Australia, but it sees potential for them in digital and direct marketing, and is asking spammers to register interest at its help address spammersaid@hotmail.se.

“We also want to inform them that they won’t have a job in the future since we today stop 97% of all spam."

“This is a first step to inspire, inform and convince them to take another career path,” says Nygren, adding that further steps may involve participation in Microsoft’s recruitment initiative, MS Employ.

One problem of course is that spammers are unlikely to want to identify themselves to a company still in pursuit of the botmasters behind the Rustock, Waledec and Kelihos botnets, which it launched civil proceedings against over the past year.

That’s OK, says Nygren. Spammers do not need to identify themselves and can simply participate online in the first-phase of re-education.

The second issue that Microsoft Sweden is aware of is that none of the biggest spammers come from the Scandinavian country.

“Still, we think this initiative is good for us and for Swedish Hotmail users,” she said.

A third issue is that spammers who don't want retraining have already moved onto new territory, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Adscend Media, a US-based affiliate marketing company that earned monthly gross revenues of $1.2 million through Facebook ‘Like’-jacking, settled with Washington State on Monday for US$100,000, and agreed to stop spamming Facebook's users.

In a similar example, Russian antivirus firm, Kaspersky, in March discovered a Facebook "Like" scam using fake Flash malware installed from Google Chrome Web Store to generate fraudulent "Likes" at cost per thousand of $27.

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