The Early Roots of Spam

In a break from the standard blog posts about recent hacks and political atmospheres, we are going to trace back the original roots of spam messages. This blog post is inspired by the following recent Snapple advertisement.

Before we delve into the original spam message that first was sent in 1864, there is a more modern spam considered the first spam message in the modern-era. The first ever email mass-message was sent by Gary Thuerk back in 1978. In an effort to alert users to a new product at his company, Digital Equipment Corp, the marketing manager blasted off this email to various clients. About 400 clients were sent the email over the network ARPANET, which many consider to be the first form of the Internet that there has ever been. While many recipients were a bit confused by the email, and the email was labeled as the first ever instance of spam, Thuerk did not believe he was doing anything wrong. He believed that his email was the world’s first instance of “e-commerce” which is somewhat true. the average email user cannot navigate their inbox without seeing a plethora of advertisements in their junk folder. While this is considered to be the first ever spam message over email, another scam predates it by 114 years.

Back in the spring of 1864, a mysterious telegram was delivered to several British politicians across London. Upon opening the envelope and reading the contents, the politicians learned that Messrs Gabriel’s dentistry practice would be open from 10am to 5pm until October of that year. The recipients of the telegram were furious and believed that this advertisement was a waste of time. Of course, the Times, a popular Victorian-era newspaper, printed this telegram which assisted Mr. Gabriel in receiving even more publicity for his dentistry. In a time period when advertising over media and communication devices was a far-fetched idea, this message created a brand new industry of telecom advertisement.

As new technologies come into field, a stigma of etiquette and proper use shrouds them. Nobody is quite sure what denotes appropriate use of a system and therefore could abuse the powers in the eyes of the masses. New understandings of how emails should be sent, or what content should be on a telegram evolve as the technology ages.

In our current age, we are seeing an abuse of technology in order to gain ground and control over people. Phishing is the ideal example of how spam has evolved into a destructive force that can destroy corporations. What was once an annoying advertisement has turned into an all-encompassing power, and we must become educated to avoid falling victim to these attacks.

-Team PhishTrain

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